To fully understand the Yoga Tradition, we must illustrate the roots of the philosophy and practice. To the best of our knowledge, we have explicitly described the history of the great Yoga Tradition, which illuminates where the vast array of our most current styles have come from and have influenced the modern practice and teachings in all lineages.
Pre-Hindu: Archaic Yoga (Indus Valley Civilization) Before 4500 BCE
The earliest known human presence in India occurred circa 250,000 BCE. In very early pre-Vedic times Indian spirituality was primarily a shamanic practice.
Pre-Hindu/Archaic Yoga (Indus Valley Civilization) Before 4500 BCE
While most scholars long thought that the Vedas were written around 1500 BCE, Georg Fuerstein, Ph.D. and Dr. David Frawley date
the first Vedas to circa 4500 BCE, with some may be dating earlier. During the Vedic Era, Brahmins, the highest ranking caste, were
the custodians of the sacred traditions—they memorized the Vedas, and Brahmanas, and passed on the traditions orally for
generations. The Brahmins were the keepers of sacred text and ritual and were the only ones allowed to conduct the elaborate
rituals and sacrifices in the temple. You’d have to pay a pretty price to have the Brahmin Priest conduct a special ritual for you and
Primary Vedic Texts (between 5000-4500 BCE):
■Rig Veda: Knowledge of Praise
■Sama Veda: Knowledge of Chants
■Yajur Veda: Knowledge of Sacrifice
■Atharva Veda: Knowledge of Atharvan
Brahmanas, Puranas, & Aranykas Texts (4500-2500 BCE)
■Brahmanas: commentaries on the Vedas
■Puranas: collections of stories about royalty and deities drawn from fact and legend. Documents the lineages of Kings & their
■Aranyakas: Ritual texts for Brahmins who withdrew from the world to live in the forest and practice meditation and mystic rituals.
Pre-Classical Yoga: Upanishads
1900/1500 BCE-200 CE/AD
Between 1900 and 1500 BCE, the Saraswati River dried up, ending the Indus Valley Civilization and sending people east towards the
Ganges River. During this time of social, cultural, and economic changes, many new philosophies emerged.
Primary Upanishads ideals:
■Vedanta: End of the Vedas. Birth of the asetic, and no longer needing Brahmin Priests to perform rituals. Primary Vedanta Texts
include: Updanishads and Bhagavad Gita.
■Samkhya: The Epic Era: Primary texts include Ramayana and Mahabarata. Primary philosophical beliefs include a qualified non-
■Buddhism: Founded by Guatama the Buddha (563-483 BCE). Primary teachings include Dhamma (Dharma) Pada
Influential Indian Gurus, teachers, and living saints who popularized and influenced Modern Yoga.
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902): Devotee of the great saint Ramakrishna who spoke at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in
Chicago where he introduced Yoga to the west.
Swami Sivananda Maharaj of Rishikesh (1887-1963): Founder of Sivananda Yoga
Sri T. Krishnamacharya (1893-1989): Huge influence on three large bodies of Yoga. Father and teacher to T.K.V Desikichar (Viniyoga),
B.K.S. Iyengar (Iyengar style), and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga Yoga)
Paramahamsa Yogananda (1893-1952): Author of Autobiography of a Yogi and founder of Self Realization Fellowship.
Krishnamurti (1895-1986): Influential teacher and prolific author who traveled extensively in India, the U.S., Canada, and Western
Neem Karoli Baba (Late 19th Century-1973): Considered to be a living saint. Practiced yoga through music. Guru to many influential
Western Yogis including Ram Dass, Krishna Das, and Jai Uttal.
Swami Satchidananda (1914-2003): Devotee of Swami Sivananda and founder of Integral Yoga and the Satchidananda Ashram in
Yogaville, VA. He also gave the invocation at Woodstock.
Paramahamsa Satyanada Saraswati (1924-?): Devotee of Swami Sivananda Saraswati Maharaj of Rishikesh and founder of the Bihar
School of Yoga. Now lives as an ascetic life in India.
Swami Vishnu Devananda (1927-1993): Devotee of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh who popularized Sivananda in the U.S.
Swami Muktananda (1908-1982): Founder of Siddha Yoga. Teachings are based on Kashmiri Shaivism and focuses primarily on
Swami Chidvilasananda (1955-?): Successor to Swami Muktananda and head of Siddha Yoga. Guru to John Friend who founded
Current Yoga Teachers and Styles
B.K.S. Iyengar–student of T. Krishnamacharya and founder of the Iyengar Style. Iyengar classes and poses are typically held for
longer periods of time with particular attention to alignment. Another attribute specific to the Iyengar Style is the use of props,
including belts, chairs, blocks, and blankets to help accommodate special needs and alignment. Students of Iyengar include John
Friend, Patricia Walden, Marry Dunn, John Schumacher, Ramanand Patel, and Rodney Yee. Visit
www.iyisf.org for more information.
T.K.V.Desikichar—son and student of T. Krishnamacharya and founder of Viniyoga. Viniyoga is an empowering and transformative
practice that uses a tailored practice to evolve on the physical, emotional, and intellectual level. Students of Desikichar include Gary
Kraftsow and Pure Prana’s Jessica Silverman. Visit www.viniyoga.com for more information.
Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois-student of T. Krishnamacharya, and founder of Ashtanga Yoga. An ever growing practice in popularity, this
system based on six series of asana which increase in difficulty, allowing students to work at their own pace. Class is fast paced and
flowing with emphasis on the breath as you move from pose to pose. Students of Jois include Richard Freeman, David Swenson,
David Life, Sharon Gannon. Visit www.yogaworkshop.com for more information.
Beryl Bender Birch-founder of the Power Yoga.
Sharon Gannon and David Life-founders of Jivamukti Yoga.
Kali Ray-founder of TriYoga
Ganga White and Tracey Rich-funders of White Lotus Yoga.
Joseph Le Page, M.A-founder of Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT) in San Francisco.
Rama Berch-founder of Svaroopa Yoga
Bikram Choudhry-founder of Bikram Yoga
Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh-founder of Sivananda Yoga
Revered Sri Swami Satchidiananda-founder of Integral Yoga
Swami Kriyananda-founder of Ananda Yoga
Yogi Bhajan-founder of Kundalini Yoga