Yoga History

History of Yoga - Vedic, Pre-classical, Classical, Post-classical & Modern Yoga

The history of yoga is divided into four broad categories:

  1. Pre-Vedic Period
  2. Vedic Period
  3. Pre-classical Period
  4. Classical Period
  5. Post-classical Period

Pre-Vedic Period

The history of yoga is believed to have started even before the Vedic period. This dates back to 15,000 years ago when a Yogi appeared first time in the upper Himalayan ranges. Since he was the first Yogi, he was referred to as Adiyogi. He taught yoga to seven sages, popularly known as Saptha Rishis. Agastya Muni, who was one of them came to South India to spread yoga as instructed by Adiyogi, Lord Siva.

There is evidence of Lord Sri Ram performing yoga in Sri Rama Raksha Stothram, a poetic worship of Lord Sri Ram. According to the the second sloka of Sri Rama Raksha Stothram, Lord Sri Ram used to meditate in Baddha Padmasanam, an advanced Yogasana practice.

Vedic Period

The ancient texts of Vedas are the oldest scriptures in the world. The Sanskrit word “Veda” means "knowledge" and “Rig” means "praise". Thus the Rig Veda is a collection of hymns that praise a higher power. The other three Vedas are the Yajur Veda (knowledge of sacrifice), Sama Veda (knowledge of chants), and Atharva Veda (knowledge of Atharvan).

Vedic Yoga can also be called Archaic Yoga, since people believed in a ritualistic way of life. Rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonies existed because they were considered a means of connecting to the spirit world. People turned to rishis or Vedic yogis for illumination. The Vedic masters were blessed with a vision of the supreme reality and their hymns speak of their marvelous intuitions.

Pre-Classical Period

This period spans approximately 2,000 years until the second century, during which Gnostic texts, called the Upanishads appeared, detailing the self and ultimate reality. There are approximately 200 Upanishads, And among the most remarkable yoga scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gita, composed around 500 B.C.


The Geetha’s central teaching is, to do one’s duties without expecting the fruit of their actions. In 1200 BC, Rishaba, the great teacher and exponent of the Jainism tradition, emphasized efforts dedicated to the liberation of the spirit.

During this time, Yoga found its way into Buddhism as well. Lord Buddha was the first Buddhist to study Yoga, and Buddhist scriptures emphasize meditation and physical postures, which are Yogic processes.