Updated: Jun 7, 2022
Explore the origins of Yoga, its true purpose, and how you can take the practice off the mat.
The International Day of Yoga is celebrated on the 21st of June every year (the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere), so this month, we'll be talking about where Yoga originated, the approximate dates that the practice started, the true purpose of Yoga, and some tips for you to consider if you'd like to practice Yoga off the mat.
Continue scrolling for more, or check the index below for a specific a topic.
Where did Yoga come from and when did it start?
Yoga is believed to date back to pre-Vedic traditions and to have been developed by the Indus valley civilization, which existed around 3,000BCE. The Indus valley civilization flourished in the basins of the Indus River, in Northern India, and was known for its advanced urban planning, and elaborate drainage and water supply systems.
Together with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilization was one of the three early civilizations of the Near East and South Asia and by far the most widespread, covering parts of present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
The cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa were the biggest urban centres and were believed to be home to between 30,000 to 60,000 people.
Yoga is thought to be over 5,000 years old, although recent findings from archeological research in the Gulf of Khambhat suggest that Yoga has been practiced for 12,000 years.
What is the true purpose of Yoga?
In simple terms, Yoga is a way of life created to ease suffering, elevate the Human Being and lead the Yogi to enlightenment (or Self-realisation).
This means that the strong and toned body, the improved flexibility, and the calm and peace of mind Yoga brings are all but side effects of this transformational practice.
According to international Yoga Master B.K.S Iyengar -
Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit the broken pieces together (...). It implies equanimity and ultimately that there is an inner serene core of one's being that is never out of touch with the unchanging, eternal infinite.
(To grasp the true purpose of Yoga, I invite you to read this quote again and sit with it mentally for a while, allowing it to drop into the core of your being.)
Yoga seeks to answer the question - What is the purpose of existence? and presents a systemised approach to address how the human being can reconcile the body AND the mind for the ultimate liberation.
➡️ Complex? Yes! Yoga is as complex as Nature and human beings, so we should not expect to fully grasp this concept easily.
Yoga is a way of life that should be lived and experienced, so only through consistent practice can we develop and deepen our understanding of Yoga's true purpose. In fact, according to many Yoga sages, it may take you years, decades, and even lifetimes before you're ready to realise Yoga's message.
But while it may be complex it's also incredibly fascinating - the fact that Yoga is a journey, leading you on a path towards self-improvement and realisation, until you understand your true nature and see yourself as you truly are - a being that is balanced and at peace, and is no longer disturbed by the uncertainties and suffering of life.
More than a practice, Yoga is a millenary philosophy of life developed thanks to a profound knowledge of the body, the mind, and the Whole, so should be respected and honoured as it is.
And speaking about honouring the roots of Yoga... continue reading for 3 things you can do to take your practice off the mat and embody Yoga in your day-to-day.
3 ways you can practice Yoga off the mat
1. Practice Ahimsā
Ahimsā is one of Yoga's Yama - ethical principles that should inform the way we act towards others in society. Ahimsā is the practice of nonviolence that applies to all living beings (think Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. who led peaceful protests and movements for peace in their fight against oppression).
How can you practice Ahimsā in your day-to-day?
Avoid negative thoughts or causing harm to yourself and others - physically or emotionally. And while it may sound simple, it's actually incredibly nuanced and complex, since it requires you to be mindful of your thoughts, your words, and your actions, and cultivate an "always-on" sense of self-awareness that prevents you from inflicting pain on others.
So before acting, pause and understand where your action is coming from - is it good-intentioned? Is it coming from a good place? Empathise and put yourself in other people's shoes.
You practice Ahimsā, for example, when before speaking or sharing your thoughts with somebody else, you ask yourself - am I saying this for the sake of speaking my truth, because I want to say it; or is this genuinely going to help and support the other person?
If you speak your truth before considering this, you may be causing unnecessary harm.
2. Practice Gratitude
Cultivating gratitude and giving thanks is crucial to Yoga and your personal growth.
Besides, evidence shows that feeling grateful has a positive impact on your mental and emotional health, contributing to better relationships, more positive emotions, and overall feelings of happiness.
How can you actively practice gratitude?
Keep a journal where you list 3 things you're grateful for every morning, or later towards the end of your day.
Another way to develop gratitude is through Pūjā (or Pooja), offering your Yoga practice to the World, the Universe, eternal consciousness, or other higher entity you identify with.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Yoga is being aware of our bodies and minds and taking action without attachment.
What is taking action without attachment? Is to act without deriving pleasure or pain from the action. In other words, is to expect a result from an action but not attribute any emotional value to it. For example - you're working hard to deliver a project on time because you're dedicated and competent, not because you're looking for praise for meeting the deadline.
The benefit of acting without attachment is a profound sense of freedom. If you do not rely emotionally on the product of your actions, you release yourself from the need for external validation, frustration, and disappointment.
This is a lot easier said than done, of course, and where the practice of Mindfulness comes in, requiring constant observation of your body, your thoughts, and your feelings as if you're outside looking in.
Practice Mindfulness in your day-to-day by involving your mind in each task and developing a sense of self-awareness rooted in the present moment.
It is our mission at Yogaful to teach and share authentic, classical Yoga - how it was designed originally, a truly holistic practice comprising 14 main technical disciplines including Āsana (the Yoga poses), Prānāyāma (breath-work), meditation, and more in every single class.
By bringing all these powerful techniques together in a class, we work on the human being in its entirety, going beyond just the physical to develop the way we breathe, install meditation habits, influence our endocrine and nervous systems, boost our immunity and share many other exercises that will be long lasting and transformational on all levels - physically, emotionally, chemically, energetically and mentally.
We invite you to try our group Yoga classes and live your best life - a life that is peaceful, abundant, happy, and full of love.