The historical development of Yoga may be divided into three significant periods or Pre-Patanjali Period (before 500 B.C)
Vedas – there’s no explanation of the word Yoga in any Vedas, yet the word is mentioned. The asanas explained in these scriptures are mainly for meditation purposes.
Upanishads – More details on Yoga are given, such as kathopanishad explains the process of attaining samadhi.
Smrti – Explains the four ashrams or stages of life or Brahmacarya, Grhastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa.
Jainism – according to the teachings, the movement of the body and mind towards the soul is Yoga.
Teachings of Buddha – according to the teachings, the body is the vehicle through which the mind finds its peace. Therefore, a steady mind requires a stable body.
Two types of meditation are given in the teachings of Buddha or, Suksma and Nirhara Dhyana.
Ramayana and Mahabharata – the two main yoga epics. Ramayana explains the moral disciplines Yana and Niyama; while Mahabharata defines Yoga in Bhagavad Gita.
Puranas – few of the puranas talk about yoga, yama and niyama. For example, the Bhagavata purana explains pranayama, Linga purana about yama and Niyama and Vayu purana about pratyahara, dharana and dhyana.
Patanjali Period (500-800 A.C) – Ashtanga Yoga
Patanjali is the name of the great sage or rishi who compiled and systematized various teaching and practices that at his time were passed orally and were already considered ancient. Patanjali is perhaps the first to demystify the elements of consciousness and arrange them into 196 Sutras that could fit on a single page. Many people over the years translated, elaborated and commented on The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and created their interpretations.
The 196 Yoga Sutras are divided between four chapters or books (pada), as follows:
- Book 1 – Integration – Samadhi Pada (51 Sutras)
- Book 2 – The Path to Realization – Sadhana Pada (55 Sutras)
- Book 3 – The Extraordinary Powers – Vibhuti Pada (56 Sutras)
- Book 4 – Freedom/Independence – Kaivalya Pada (34 Sutras)
The author begins the first sutra by stating the purpose of the book and in the second treatise of Book 1 he explains the meaning behind the word ‘yoga’. It reads:
योगश्चित्तवृश्चत्तश्चिरोधः ॥२॥ yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ
— Yoga Sutras 1.2
Yoga is the inhibition (nirodhaḥ) of the modifications (vṛtti) of the mind (citta) – Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (citta) from taking various forms (vrittis) – Swami Vivekananda
Post Patanjali Period (800 A.C – today)
- Shankaracharya (8th century) – Sri Shankaracharya with the Advaita Philosophy
- Ramanujacarya (th century) – He has written a book on tantra yoga explaining kundalini. He proposed Vishishtadvaita Philosophy.
- Bhakti Yoga period (12-16th century) – Narada Bhakti Sutra is the widespread text from that period Hatha Yoga Period (9th century and reached the peak during the 14th century)
- Matsyendranatha (9th Century) — Kala jnana nirnaya.
- Gorakshanatha (9th Century) — Goraksa Shataka
- Chauranginath (11th century) — Chaurangi Shataka.
- Svatmarama (14th Century) — Hatha Pradipika
- Gheranda (15th century) —- Gheranda Samhita
- Shrinivasa Bhatta (17th century) — Hatharatnavali
- Sadashiva Brahmendra Saraswati – wrote Shiva Yoga Dipika, which talks about the Yama and Niyama principles, body posture or Asanas, and Adharas of the body.
- Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Parama hamsa, Paramahansa yogananda contributed to Raja Yoga.
- Swami Vivekananda – the great disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, has written commentary on Patanjala Yoga Sutras and other books
After this Yoga spreads all over the world by the great teachers like
- Swami Shivananda
- Swami Rama,
- Shri Kuvalayananda
- Sri Krishnamacharya
- Osho Rajneesh – dynamic meditation
- Maharishi Mahesh yogi,
- Yogi Arabindo ,
- Sri Pattabhi Jois (taught by Sri Krishnamacharya) – Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
- Sri B.K.S Iyengar (taught by Sri Krishnamacharya) – Iyengar Yoga
- Baba Ramdev
- Sri Sri Ravishankar