No one knows for sure when yoga appeared for the first time. According to one of the versions, our distant ancestors, even in the Stone Age, could in this way try to bring harmony into their lives. But there is no convincing evidence of this. The earliest evidence of the yoga existence is dated to the third millennium BC. In the valleys of the Indus River in India, lot of stone figures depicting people in meditative postures were found. Perhaps, it was not yet the yoga that we know, but its forerunner.
The origins of Indian philosophy are unknown; however, mythology ascribes divine origin to it. According to the texts, there are 8,400,000 positions corresponding to all types of living beings inhabiting the Universe. In the mythological tales it is said that Lord Shiva revealed the secret of yoga teachings to his wife Parvati. Due to it she could stay young eternally.
A great influence on the history of yoga and development of yoga had the Vedas. It is a series of spiritual texts dated from 2500 BC, and according to believers, written by deities. The doctrine formed the basics of Hinduism and played a large role in the development of the culture and philosophy of South Asia. The Vedas also contain some of the earliest teachings of yoga. There are few similarities between them and modern practice. But the Vedas contain the basic principles of yoga – for example, the ideals of physical and spiritual harmony.
Hatha Yoga has appeared in the middle age, and it is akin to modern yoga. Hatha yoga practitioners took into account the philosophy of past centuries, but paid more attention to cleansing the body, not the spirit. They also have increased the variety of traditional sedentary yoga poses. Also several new poses, or asanas, aimed to strengthen the whole body appeared.
The next and last milestone in the history of yoga was its penetration into the West culture in the 19th century. Most of all, a Hindu teacher named Swami Vivekananda did this during his trip to Europe and the USA. Gradually, yoga in the West was transformed primarily into an exercise system, rather than a spiritual practice. Modern yoga combines both approaches – East and West, as well as ancient and modern philosophies, using the strengths of both.