Yoga has become very popular in the past few decades. There are more and more practitioners who are taking up the discipline for better physical and mental well health. It is a discipline which is thousands of years old and originated in India. But have you ever thought ‘Who is the founder of yoga’?
In fact, there are a number of studies that have highlighted the rising popularity of yoga. A study done by Yoga Alliance and Yoga journal showed how number of yoga practitioners had increased by more than 50% between 2012 to 2016.
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Who is the founder of yoga?
The founder of yoga is Patanjali.
He is credited to be the author of the first text on yoga, The Yoga Sutras.
In fact, there is an Indian consumer goods company as well called Patanjali ayurved, which is named after him.
Patanjali’s Yoga sutra is the oldest and first guide on yoga. It is believed to have been written more than 2000 years ago.
It describes the theory and practice of yoga and how it helps to bring greater discipline to both the mind and body of the practitioner. If you are someone who is looking to start practicing yoga, you can refer to our guide on must have yoga accessories that will make your practice more effective.
According to Edwin bryant, Yoga essentially consists of meditative practices culminating in attaining a state of consciousness free from all modes of active or discursive thought. (Source)
Swami Vivekananda, great indian philosopher, published his work ‘Raja Yoga’ in 1896. It was based on ‘The Yoga Sutras’ of Patanajali.
Swami Vivekananda’s work is considered to be the trigger which popularized Yoga Sutras as the seminal text on yoga across the world.
Patañjali divided his yoga sutras into four chapters that contain 195 sutras (Aphorisms). ‘Sutra’ in sanskrit means a thread.
The 195 sutras in Patanjali’s yoga sutras refer to profound philosophical statements made in a pithy manner.
The author of these sutras has tried to pack as much information as possible in the minimum possible number of words.
The Yoga Sūtras contain only about 1200 words.
- Samadhi Pada
- Sadhana Pada
- Vibhuti Pada
- Kaivalya Pada
Who is patanjali?
Patanjali, the founder of yoga as a discipline, lived sometime between 500 BC to 200 B.C.
Not much is known about his life and historians have not been able to establish a reliable timeline of his birth and death.
There are a number of myths about his birth.
He is even considered to be an incarnation of Ananta and Seshanaag.
In fact, there are conflicting opinions even on how many individuals named Patanjali have been there in Indian tradition.
There are three well known individuals in Indian history who were named Patanjali.
- First person wrote the original authoritative text on yoga, “The Yoga Sutras”. He is also credited to have written a commentary on Ashtadhyayi, the book on Sanskrit grammar by Panini.
- The second person was the author of Nidana sutras which is a very good resource for vedic studies
- The third person was a teacher named Patanjali who taught Samkhya philosophy
According to historians, the three people mentioned above belonged to different eras and are considered to be different individuals.
However according to Indian tradition, all the contributions mentioned above have been done by a single person, Patanjali, who is the founder of yoga as well.
Birth of Patanjali
There are a lot of myths surrounding the birth of the yoga founder, Patanjali.
It is believed that he was someone who took birth in human form on earth, on his own volition, to help humanity).
There are multiple popular legends about the birth of Patanjali. The most popular one goes as follows.
In this legend, Patanjali is an incarnation of lord Sheshnag.
According to the legend, Lord Vishnu was once absorbed in watching the dance movements of Lord Shiva. While watching his body also started to rhythmically move which made his body heavier. Since Lord Vishnu sits on Sheshnag, it caused a lot of discomfort to him.
As soon as the dance ended, Lord Vishnu’s body became light again.
Lord Sheshnag wanted to learn the reason for the transformation and also expressed a desire to learn the dance.
Lord Vishnu told him that he will get that chance through Lord Shiva. To know who his mother would be, when he takes the human form, Lord Sheshnag started meditating.
This was when he realized that he would be the son of the Indian yogini Gonika, who herself was praying for a son.
Once Gonika was praying to the Sun god to fulfill her wishes when she saw a tiny snake in her palms. This snake took a human form later.
She called him Patanjali which means someone who has fallen into palms that have been folded in prayer.
Ashtanga or eight limbs of yoga
Patanjali’s yoga sutras have classified yoga into eight forms. These forms are called Ashtanga or eight limbs of yoga.
1) Yama: This aspect puts focus on discipline in life including non-violence and truthfulness.
2) Niyama: This is concerned with the practices required to build one’s character
3) Asanas: This includes the physical part of yoga which is concerned with different postures and asanas.
4) Pranayama: This is concerned with control of breath. A good control on breathing allows you to concentrate better and improves overall health & well being.
- Light on Patanjali Yoga Sutras” by B.K.S. Iyengar