Before going through the Modern Yoga Therapy, it’s better to know that The origins of the philosophical and metaphysical teachings of yoga lie in a timeless history that is said to have originated in Hiranyagarbha, the causal germ plasm itself. This trans-cultural art and science of humanity grew from the roots of the traditional pan-Indian culture and way of life (Sanatana dharma), with a detailed codification presented by the great sage Patanjali through his Yoga Darshana, said to have been written more than 2500 years ago.
Today, yoga has become popular as a modality helping people to alleviate their physical, mental, and emotional imbalances. It is interesting to note that yoga as such was never meant to be a healing modality—yoga’s goal for a human being is to reach enlightenment, or union of one’s individual consciousness with Universal Consciousness. Yoga helps unify all aspects of our very being: the physical body, in which we live our daily life; the energy body, without which we will not have the capacity to do what we do; the mind body, which enables us to do our tasks with mindfulness; the higher intellect, which gives us clarity; and finally, the universal body, which gives us limitless bliss.
The Three Major Time Frames Of Yoga History
- Pre-historic (before 500 BC)
In the period before the written word, all spiritual teachings were transmitted orally from master (guru) to student (sishya) in forest hermitages. These are the teachings found today in the Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharvana Vedas.2 The Rigveda talks about unity of the mind with the Divine in meditation (yunjate man ut yunjate dhiyo vipraa viprasya brihato vipashchitah; Rigveda Book 5 81:1); and the Yajurveda tells us that by regular yoga practice, we improve our strength (yoge yoge tavastaram vaaje vaaje havaamahe sakhaaya indramootaye; Yajurveda 11:14).
- Historic (500 BC–AD 1700)
In this period, the teachings were transmitted from master to student, using both oral and written traditions. These are the teachings found in the Bhagavad Gita,3 Upanishads,4 and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras5 and Hatha Yoga texts. Even in ancient times, many types of yoga were taught, although the four main pillars were Karma Yoga (path of right action), Bhakti Yoga (path of devotion), Jnana Yoga (path of knowledge), and Raja Yoga (royal path to liberation). Feuerstein6 has described 40 types of yoga ranging from Abhava Yoga (the unitive discipline of non-being) to Yantra Yoga (the unitive discipline of focusing the mind on the geometric representations of the cosmos). Of these, the main ones that have survived into the modern age are the Ashtanga Yoga teachings of Patanjali and the Hatha Yoga teachings of the natha yogis.7
- Modern (after AD 1700)
In this period, the spiritual teachings were gleaned from many sources, often only through the written word and with or without the guidance of a living lineage of masters (guruparampara). During this time, yoga and its teachings moved from the East to the West, a phenomenon that is often attributed to the arrival of Swami Vivekananda in the US in 1893. Since then, various traditions, such as Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar, and Pattabhi Jois), Swami Sivananda Saraswati (Satyananda, Vishnudevananda, Satchitananda), the Himalayan tradition (Swami Rama), the Self Realization Fellowship (Swami Yogananda), and the Rishiculture (Swami Gitananda) have spread worldwide.