Historical Context of Yoga


Neolithic Age

Approx. 7000 BC - 4500 BC

Pre-Vedic Age

6500 BCE - 4500 BCE
  • goddess centered shamanistic culture(think witch doctor, someone who can tap into nature)
  • pashupati seal (not shiva) - lord of the beasts

Mesopotamia (Sumeria/Assyria/Babylon)

5300 BC - 1100 BC

Vedic Age

4500 BCE - 2500 BCE
  • aryans came into indus valley? or were they already there? newer evidence suggestions latter
  • sruti heard by rishis - first proto yogis. lots of concentration. visionary.
  • 4 vedas - rig, atharva, yajur, sama veda } knowledge
  • ritual based sacred sound poetry
  • the universe explaining itself in streaming flow of code. some symbolic. some according to astronomy.
  • putting more order onto nature. purity. fire rituals. householder and public sacrifices. ayurveda begins to develop.
  • rig - creation and fire ritual hymns >> read doniger creation hymn
    -Tapas , heat, creative potential/passion, to burn, to glow, disciplines/austerities, liked with asceticism - tapas associated with siddhis or powers / magic
  • gayatri
  • swaha is vedic way of saying amen
  • atharva - magical spells for love, health, peace, prosperity. deities themselves acquired their immortality through chastity and austerities. prana/vayu talked about here
  • trimurti: brahma/creator, vishnu/preservation, shiva/destruction (indra/air, rudra/fire more in earlier vedas, and trimurti in latter 2)
  • vratyas? - young warrior men brotherhood, proto tantra men, on fringe of orderly society as protectors, counterculture (think dready ascetics) outside social rules. pranayama. associated with magic lore. >> tell story of enlightened man with children in burning house lying to them to get them out
  • munis - ecstatic shamans who lived on outside of society - referred to in rig veda

Ancient Egypt

3100 BC - 1 BC

Brahmanic Age

2500 BC - 1500 BC
  • dualism/dvaita vedanta & non-dualism/advaita vedanta
  • conservative priesthood elite class - outer social spiritual agreements. priests tried to obscure vratya lore
  • caste system - priest class, warrior/ruler class, creative/goods class, servant class
  • rituals became more important than the higher spiritual realizations for brahmins.
  • brahmanas - shruti works to explain rituals
  • arankyas - forest texts and leads the way to upanishads. not many survived b/c priests werent into it.
  • dharma} law, karma/samsara - remember the belief in reincarnation

Ancient to Modern Chinese Dynasties

2100 BC - Approx. 1900 AD

Mayan Empire

2000 BC - 1700 AD

Upanishadic Age

1500 BC - 1000 BC
  • vedanta - means the end of the veda. nondualism/theistic. expands upon vedic teachings
    internalized vedic ritual - most scholars agree 13 upanishads are apart of vedas
  • to sit near - to a teacher/sage/
  • priest wisdom got more exclusive and lay people could take part in this kind of ritual (almost heretical btw). still not public knowledge, must be a disciple of a sage
  • Main teachings around:
    • atman/self is brahman/Self
    • realization of brahman gets you out of cycle of birth and death
    • thoughts/actions create karma
    • renunciate and jnana are keys out
    • emphasis feminine aspect of the divine (shiva and shakti)
  • katha upanishad deals explicitly with yoga (associated with vedic school for yajur veda) - teachings of involution to the Self/purusa
    • manifest work/shakti inward through senses/manas, monkey mind/manas, buddhi/intellect
    • this is where we get a definition of yoga - steady attention
    • koshas
    • cakras
  • 6 fold path of maitrayaniya upanishad (later upanishad) - precursor to patanjalis last 6 limbs
  • repetition is like waves. recursive >> READ - upanishad about yajnavalkya - personification of veda. 80yr old man leaving 2 wives to transition to forrest

Epic Mahabharata War

1500 BC

Greece & Rome

1100 BC - 300 AD

Pre-Classical or Epic Age

1000 BC - 100 BC
  • jainism - strict practice of ahimsa. and purity.
  • siddhis all along - stories ascetic forrest men with magical miracle working powers.
  • hindus think - jesus is an incarnation of krishna.


560 BC - 480 BC
  • 4 noble truths - basically life is suffering lets get off this wheel
  • life is suffering - dukha
  • desire is cause of suffering
  • eliminate craving eliminate suffering
  • use 8 fold path to do this ( right vision, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, etc)
  • one branch of buddhism along with ideas happening in hinduism simultaneously led the way to tantra. along came a spider!!!!
  • aka tantra - to weave/to loom
  • basically you don’t have to leave this body to discover the truth/transcendental. body positive and anti-puritanical. can include taboo things. otherwise why would we even be here?
  • emphasis on mantra and mudra

Bhagavad Gita Wriiten

500 BC
  • bhaj } bhati = devotion or love or blessing/blessed one. Gita means song. lords song
  • climax of epic battle - krishna talks to arjuna
  • when you do your worldly duty, or what you are meant to do, you hold up the world
  • like the hindu bible - predates the bible
  • song about god and yoga - first full fledge yoga literature
  • you are the point the universe is trying to make >> READ - favorite passage of chapter 2
  • 4 yogas - karma/selfless work, jnana/wisdom, bhakti/devotion, and raja/meditation
  • moksa-dharma - a different section of the mahabharata is pre-cursor to patanjali as is dharma shastra - legal iterature on morality (300 BCE to 200 CE)

Classical Age

100 BC - 500 CE
  • 6 classical schools of hinduism solidify - darshana - drs} to see. 6 perspectives 1 - Purva-Mimamsa - art/science school, dualist, evolves from 2 earlier portions of the veda 2 -uttara-mimamsa or vedanta - non-dualist, evolves around later parts of veda (and gita) 3 - samkhya - science of being, renunciate, intellectualism, gunas. dualist. purusa and prakriti are separate. method is scriptural. classical samkhya is atheist (influenced by rational philosophy of buddhism) 4 - yoga - cousin of samkhya. dualist. main text is yoga sutra. method is perception. curious theism (influenced by rational philosophy of buddhism). 5 - vaisheshika 6 - nyaya
  • sutras are compiled - kinda both schools. some scholars believe patanjali was on cusp of tantric revolution too though so can be interpreted in a way that is inclusive.
  • kama sutra
  • hiranyagarbha - originator of yoga - primal cosmic force rather than a person, something yogis tap into. he wrote nirodha and karma yoga works not sutras that predate the yoga sutras. sutras are most compressive.

Middle Ages

5 AD - 1500 AD

Yoga Sutras

150 CE - 200
  • patanjali compiler, climax of yoga teachings up to this point on the cusp on tantric revolution >> review 8 limbs together

Tantric Age

500 - 1300
  • Purunas created - great encyclopedic compilations of philosophy, mythology, ritual knowledge based on traditions/lore that date back to vedas. they were to the public what the vedas and - brahamanas were to the priesthood.
  • lots of different types of yogas (when to practice, who to worship). lots of vishnu and shiva worshiping. also 8 fold path.
  • culmination of non-dualist/dualist thinking. yes and…
  • matsyendranath - matsya fish and indra lord. lord of the fish. fisherman. --- associated with shiva worshipping siddhis, kula (family group) movement, kundalini (shiva and shakti, purusa/pwrakriti, masc/femine union) --- student Goraknath lived in 10/11th century was the miracle worker of his time --- samhita books - lots of purification practices

Sectarian Age

1300 - 1700

Hatha Yoga Pradipika

  • manual of hatha yoga - raja yoga (first two limbs of yamas and niyamas) is not emphasized first. more the practice and purification stuff comes first to support you in your path.
  • where we get a lot of the asanas and how to do them


1400 AD - 1700 AD

Modern Age

1700 - 2015

Separate Timeline