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Genealogy of Yoga

Updated: Nov 22, 2023



Understanding the genealogy of Yoga is understanding that we are talking about an entire grove and not just a "family tree". First, because yoga does not refer only to the postures or asanas, but also to the philosophical-spiritual. And second, because like everything, it’s conditioned by its time and geography. The different schools, styles, currents or lineages have been branching both within India and in the 20th century in the West.


The Sanskrit Yoga word “yuj” literally means yoke (curious note, Spanish is a language of the Indo-European family, so it is related to Sanskrit, which is also similar, which is why we find similar terms and as it looks like, so it happens with the english lenguage). The yoke is what keeps animals together to work in coordination. It brings them together, it unites them. Hence it also means union. On the other hand, we can reed yoke, in addition to union, as discipline, by taming or dominating different aspects that lead us to surrender. To understand this we would have to go deeper into the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita, a topic in itself for another post.


If we look for the roots of this grove we find pre-Vedic shamanism, before 4000 BC. with practices of purification, healing, meditation and asceticism.

The Indus Valley Civilization, 4000 – 2000 BC, where archaeological artifacts have been found showing figures seated on Padmasana or Lotus Flower, with symbols later associated with Yoga.

The Vedic Era, 2000 – 1000 B.C. Time of composition of the Vedas by the Rishis.

Around the year 800 BC, the Brahmins and ascetics appeared who sought union or yoke-surrender (yoga) with the Divinity and their teachings were collected in the Upanishads (from Sanskrit, “wisdom learned at the feet of the guru”), which contain the Teachings known as Vedanta (Sanskrit, the end of Veda), are essentially teachings on non-duality (i.e., advaita).


Here begins a split.

The thicker trunk continues the Vedic tradition that leads to Hinduism.

The second trunk, much thinner, evolves towards Jainism.

The third trunk developed in a more complex way towards Buddhism.


The trunk of Hinduism gave rise to numerous branches, among them the philosophical system of yoga. In turn, this branch was divided into many secondary branches, among them the main ones are:

Raja Yoga, of the mind

Hatha Yoga, well-being

Jnana Yoga, of knowledge and wisdom

Bhakti Yoga, of love and devotion

Karma Yoga, of selfless action

Mantra Yoga, of sound vibration

Tantra or Laya Yoga, of the senses

Purna Yoga, integral

Kundalini Yoga, of energy


The Bhagavad Gita, 300 BC A song later integrated into the epic poem Mahabharata narrates the teachings of the avatar Krishna focusing on selfless and non-egoistic action (Karma Yoga), devotion (Bhakti Yoga) and wisdom (Jnana Yoga).


The tantric explosion, 500 – 1000 AD

The mysticism of Tantra influences both Hinduism and Buddhism. Considering the body as a vehicle towards enlightenment and not as an obstacle to reaching it, Tantra lays the foundations of Hatha Yoga.


Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 200 AD

It is the classic statement of Ashtanga Yoga or the 8 limbs or branches. Patanjali separates himself from the main stream of Yoga philosophy (within Raja Yoga) by proposing a dualistic model of reality, which was later abandoned by most later yoga schools.


Here was born what we know today as Hatha Yoga, whose founders are Matsyendra and his disciple Goraksha, a Bengali lineage of the Natha yogis.


Advaita Vedanta, 800 AD

Also known as Shankara, he articulates the non-dualistic model of reality, later adopted by the majority. It also establishes 10 monastic lineages that were crucial in the transmission of Yoga.


Specific Hatha Yoga Texts

Since the year 1300, numerous Hatha Yoga texts appear, most of which have disappeared. Of what is preserved, many have never been translated.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika, year 1350: It is one of the first and most important Yoga manuals. It includes Pranayama, bandhas, Nada (the internal sound), Kriyas and 16 postures.

Gheranda Samhita, year 1750. Key text of Hatha Yoga, describes more than 100 practices, including 32 asanas.

Shiva Samhita, year 1750. Links the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta with the esoteric anatomy of Yoga.


Finally we arrive at the 20th century, better known and closer to us as it makes its foray into the West.

Starting in 1850, some teachers in India also began to teach yoga to women and Westerners. Specifically, starting in the 1920s, several better-known branches appeared in the West.


The following Hatha Yoga masters stand out:

1. Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)

2. Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950)

3. Swami Sivananda Saraswati (1887-1963)

4. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888-1989)

5. Swami Kailashanandaji Maharaj (1893-1978)

6. Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952)

7. Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

8. Swami Muktananda (1908-1982)

9. Swami Kripalvanandji (1913-1981)

10. Yogi Bhajan (b.1929)


Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of Ramakrishna (1836-1886), brought Yoga to America in September 1893, by participating in the World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago. Beginning of the West's curiosity about Yoga and the spiritual.


Disciples:

• Various Vedanta centers


Sri Aurobindo Ghose brought the concept of Purna Yoga or Integral Yoga where the different branches of yoga are worked in a balanced way, since they are like horses pulling a cart and brings the novelty that evolution/liberation or moksha cannot be done individually, but collectively by humanity together. Krishnamurti also defends this idea.


Swami Sivananda Saraswati was another of the great teachers and prolific writer on yoga and philosophy. His teachings are summarized in the six words “serve, love, give, purify, meditate and realize.”


Disciples:

Bishnu Gosh, (brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, 1903-1970)

Bikram Yoga, Bikram Choudhury and his Yoga College of India (b. 1945)

Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Centers of Swami Vishnudevananda (1927-1993)

• Integral yoga by Swami Satchidananda (b. 1914)

• Yoga of the Occult Language by Swami Sivananda Radha (b. 1911)


We mainly know today the most famous disciples of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya who in 1924 opened a yoga school in Mysore where he taught continuously until his death in 1989.



Disciples:

Ashtanga Yoga, K. Patabhi Jois, (b. 1915)

Viniyoga, T.K.V. Desikachar, (son of T. Krishnamacharya, b. 1938)

Iyengar Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, (nephew of T. Krishnamacharya, b. 1918)

Indra Devi Foundation, by Mataji Indra Devi (1899-2002)

Flow Yoga or Yoga Vinyasa, Ganga White and the White Lotus Foundation

Tri Yoga, Kali Ray

Power Yoga, Bender Birch


Swami Kailashanandaji Maharaj also called Yogi Gupta was a contemporary and friend of Mahatma Gandhi and together with Swami Sivananda Saraswati they formed the Kailashananda Mission and Nature Cure Center in Rishikesh. It embodies surrender, love and compassion in the service of the Divine.


Disciples:

Dharma Yoga, Dharma Mittra


Paramahansa Yogananda was the first Hindu yogi to live permanently in the United States, from 1920 until his death in 1952. He traveled throughout the country spreading the message of yoga. He is the author of Autobiography of a Yogi and creator of the Brotherhood of Self-realization.


Disciples:

• Various Yoga Kriya organizations.


Jiddu Krishnamurti has also an amazing storie. Born in India was rised in england. He brings toghether west and est, as well as science and spirituallity. He gave speaches arround the world and had public conversations with some of the greatest minds of his time, like Aldous Huxley and David Bohm.


Swami Muktananda presents the practice of Siddha Yoga which aims to touch and expand the inner mystical state until one reaches the experience of yoga as union with God.


Disciples:

Swami Chidvilasananda or Gurumayi (b. 1955)


Swami Kripalvanandji, Kundalini Yoga master, whose primary emphasis lies on awareness of breathing and Pranayama techniques, as well as meditation and silence.


Disciples:

Yoga Kripalu by Amrit Desai (b. 1932)


Yogi Bhajan creates what we know as Kundalini Yoga, which comes from the lineage of Sikh gurus, who trace their ancestral line to Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikhs, in the 15th century.


We later find other currents that emerged in the USA from disciples of Krishnamacharya:


Yoga Ishta. Mani Finger.

Yoga Jivamukti by Sharon Gannon and David Life.

Integrative Yoga Therapy by Joseph Le Page.

Yoga Svaroopa by Rama Berch for Deepak Chopra Wellness Center.

• Acuyoga.

Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy.


There are many more modern branches that have emerged in recent years and will continue to emerge, since we are constantly evolving, but it is true that in recent times, especially since #metoo, many schools and teachers have been exposed and discredited. This leads us to be more selective and demanding with the masters and lineages we choose, this discrimination is essential.


Know yourself and choose your path, your teachers and masters and your practice wisely.


Namaste Sadhakas!


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