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No one knows exactly how old yoga is. It originated as long as 10,000 to 5000 years ago. It was passed down orally and it has gone through much evolution. The earliest reference to Yoga was found when archeological excavations were made in the Indus valley - an amazing powerful and influential civilization within the early antique period. This sophisticated culture developed around the Indus river and the long gone Sarasvati river in northern India, on the border towards Pakistan and had sewage systems, baths as early as 2,600 BC.
While many religions continue to want to make yoga their very own creation, it belongs to all of us. It has many facets that may be found within the Hindu and Buddhist faith, but the basic principals are universal and determined by "the eight limbs of yoga", which may be found in most religions.
The History of Yoga is defined as four periods:
Vedic Period, Pre-Classical Period, good physical fitness (redirected here) Classical Period, Post Classical Period and the Modern Period
Yoga is said to be as old as civilization itself although the oral transmission of the practice, has left several gaps in its history. Earliest archeological evidence relating to yoga's existence is found in Mohenjodaro seals excavated from the Indus valley, depicting a figure seated in a traditional yoga pose. The stone seals place Yoga's existence around 3000 B.C.
The Vedic Period
The next reference to yoga is found in the Rig Veda, the oldest sacred text on the planet. The Vedas, dating back to 1500 and 1200 BC, are a collection of hymns, mantras and brahmanical rituals that praised a larger being. Yoga is referred to in the book as yoking or discipline without the mention of a practice or perhaps a approach to accomplish this discipline. The Atharva Veda too mentions yoga with a reference to controlling the breath.
The establishment of the Upanishads, between 800 to 500 BC, marks the period called Pre-Classical Yoga. The phrase Upanishad means to sit near and implies that the only way a student could learn the truths inscribed in the texts was by sitting close to a guru.
The Maitrayaniya Upanishad outlined a six-fold path to liberation. This six-fold yoga path included controlling the breath (pranayama), withdrawing the senses (pratyahara), meditation (dhyana), concentration (dharana), contemplation (tarka), and absorption (samadhi). Patanjali's Yoga Sutra was later to mirror these paths with greater elucidation and also a few additions.
Two yoga disciplines gained prominence at this time: karma yoga (path of action or ritual) and jnana yoga (path of knowledge or study of the scriptures). Both paths led to liberation or enlightenment. The Bhagavad-Gita, composed around 500 BC later added the bhakti yoga (the path of devotion) to this path.
It was during the time of the Upanishads that the notion of ritual sacrifice was internalized and became the idea of sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action and wisdom. This remains an important part of yoga's philosophy today. As with the Vedas, the Upanishads contained nothing of what we would term as yoga asana practice today. The first and probably most critical presentation of yoga came in the next period.