History

The History of Yoga from Pashupati to Patanjali
October 7
In 1928, in the territory of modern Pakistan, archaeologists discovered this soapstone seal. It is about 4,000 years old and, according to many Indologists, it depicts Shiva, meditating in Bhadrasana. Apparently, this is the most ancient evidence of the Yoga practice.
Salamba Sarvangasana: Shoulderstand — It’s History, Meaning and Method
April 25
Shoulder stand is a mysterious pose. Scholars make an educated guess that it’s been with us since at least pre-modern times. By its Sanskrit name, Salamba Sarvangasana, we can date it only back to 1934, where we read about in Tirumalai Krishnmacharya’s book, Yoga Makaranda. But, if Salamba Sarvangasana is the same pose as Viparita Karani — mentioned in the 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika — it has been with us for many centuries. The earliest picture we have of the pose by this name is fairly late — but it looks alot like Shoulderstand (in its “unsupported” form). We see that picture in the March, 1898 New York Herald (Figure 1).
Mayurasana (Peacock Pose). Its History, Purpose and Method
March 13
Some yoga poses are new, and some are thousands of years old. By this measurement, Mayurasana is on the young side. We find a description of Mayurasana in the 500-year-old Hatha Yoga Pradipika, yet we have depictions of other yoga poses that go back 5000 years. Similarly, some poses are easy and some poses are hard. Mayurasana is not the hardest pose in yoga, but it is definitely difficult! As you can see from the images here, its shape is unusual and—arguably—unnatural. Besides the delightful physical challenge it gives us-and the benefits to balance, strength and endurance it offers—we might ask, “why do such a pose?”
Every Known Pic of Marilyn Monroe in a Yoga Pose
December 22
Rarely was a woman more tragic, more beautiful, or more compelling to our collective consciousness. And—by the way—how did she practice yoga? Born Norma Jean Mortenson (1926 – 1962), Marilyn got her name from the suggestion of the 20th Century Fox executive, Ben Lyon. He said it the anonym was “sexy” and the “double-M” was lucky. Though we usually foreground the tragic side of her life, it isn’t widely acknowledged that this shape-changer named Marilyn was ambitious, skilled in her craft, and extremely focused on reaching her goals. As with many visionary people today (and you might be one of them), yoga formed an integral part of her wild success. In 1956, Marilyn told reporters that yoga had become a permanent part of her workout regimen.
Vrikshasana or Tree Pose
November 18
When we hold the leg up and balance in Vrikshasana, it is supposed to build mental focus and inner heat (tapas). It is like the simpler (but more difficult!) practice of holding one or two arms up, called Urdhva Dhana, described in the very old scripture called The Maitri Upanishad from the 2nd Century. There, it says, “A King called Brhadratha . . . went out into the forest . . . embarking on the highest asceticism, he stood, arms held upward, gazing at the sun.” 1 As described in the captions to Figures 3 and 4, yogis hold both Urdhva Dhana and Vrikshasana for unbelievably long amounts of time. Brhadratha is said to have held Urdhva Dhana for one-thousand days and the general prescription is to hold it for 12 years! Figure 1 shows another King, who’s name is a bit like Brhadratha. He’s called Bhagiratha, and his myth tells us he did Tree Pose for one thousand years to persuade the gods Brahma and Shiva to bring the Ganges River to Earth. (This was before the Ganges River existed on Earth!).
Rooster Pose: Kukkutasana
September 26
This pose is at least 500 years old. It is first seen in one of our most dramatic early images of a yoga, near the year 1500. It is found at the pilgrimage site of Sri Sailam, about 300 miles northeast of Bangalore, India. There, in a carving on the north wall of a temple named ...
Virabhadrasana or Warrior Pose
August 2
Indian artists made careful choices about how to position Indian gods and goddesses in painting and sculpture. They meditated to find what deities looked like, 1 and found familiar bodily positions in their visions. These body positions became ...