Yoga has been practiced for over 5,000 years, however, it wasn’t until the last two centuries that modern yoga came into fruition.
Nowadays, modern yoga is a global phenomenon that is beneficial for the mind and soul, whether you’re religious or not. While the origins of yoga are traced back to ancient India, it is still practiced around the world to this day.
To get a better understanding of the history of modern yoga, we have to look back at the histories of the cultures that created forms of yoga.
There are eight main styles of yoga, all of which have been founded by various yoga practitioners and philosophers, but it’s not easy to pinpoint who the first founder of modern yoga was. So, who was the first founder of modern yoga?
If you’re new to the world of yoga and want to learn more about its origins, you’ve come to the right place. Here is everything you need to know about the first founder of modern yoga.
Who Was The First Founder Of Modern Yoga?
It is believed that the first founder of modern yoga was Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya was an Indian yoga teacher, scholar, and healer, and is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Modern Yoga”.
He was inspired by the revival of hatha yoga, which had previously been ignored by European physical culture in the nineteenth century. This period was largely influenced by racism, with yoga styles focusing on the “man-making” benefits of yoga rather than the spiritual benefits.
Traditional Indian yoga made a triumphant and symbolic return during the anti-colonial period, wherein colonizers were inspired by these forms of yoga.
Outside influences, such as Swedish gymnastics, are also responsible for what modern yoga is today, with a blend of strength and agility along with spirituality and breath control.
Let’s take a closer look at Krishnamacharya. Born in 1888, Krishnamacharya was considered the creator of Vinyasa yoga, which combined movement with breathing to create a fluid sequence of positions. He had degrees in all six Indian philosophies, and traveled around India giving demonstrations about the importance of yoga.
Krishnamacharya is known for his key principle of “Teach what is appropriate for an individual”. His work as a healer meant that he understood various abilities and boundaries of individuals, and expressed the importance of how yoga is accessible to all.
Krishnamacharya studied at various schools and universities, where he learned logic and Sanskrit and gained several teaching certificates, including degrees in the six darshanas in Vedic philosophy. He came to yoga through his knowledge in philosophy and experience traveling around India as a healer.
His approach to modern yoga was rooted in his knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine. As a healer, he emphasized the importance of breath work, postures, and meditation, which are equally important as forms of medicine. His foundation of yoga became both a spiritual and physical practice, taking each student’s uniqueness into consideration when teaching.
Krishnamacharya was known for his individualistic teaching methods and style of yoga that was considered fairly different from ancient Indian yoga forms. He is believed to be the founder of Vinyasa Krama yoga, which is now a category of yoga comprising various sequences moving in fluidity without breaks.
Vinyasa yoga is considered a modern form of yoga. It is an umbrella term for several types of yoga, including Ashtanga, Power yoga, and Baptiste yoga, which are all about linking asanas together into a form of sequence. The poses are linked through breathing exercises designed to energize the mind and body.
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya popularized Vinyasa yoga, and is believed to have been inspired by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as well as the Yoga Yajnavalkya.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a collection of Sanskrit aphorisms exploring the theory of yoga. Yoga Yajnavalkya is a Sanskrit Hindu yoga text that describes the components of yoga.
What Defines Modern Yoga?
While it might be easy to assume that modern yoga is a new variation of traditional yoga, this is far from the truth. Modern yoga was simply influenced by traditional yoga, including postures inspired from Hatha yoga, philosophy derived from Indian religious texts (the Vedas), and other HIndu approaches.
Nowadays, there are countless types of modern yoga practices. Each type of modern yoga has its own purpose, whether it’s for weight loss goals or to improve the mental wellbeing of the students.
The purpose of each form of modern yoga is achieved through a variety of poses, sequences, breathing techniques, atmospheres in the studio, and more.
Yoga was introduced in the Western world in the late 19th century, most likely as a result of colonialism. Interestingly, modern yoga took a fairly negative approach to traditional Indian yoga, and instead had a distaste for Hatha yoga and yoga positions.
It wasn’t until Russian mystic Madame Blavatsky introduced the world of traditional Indian yoga to the West by providing a vision of the “mythical East”. While this orientalist view of the East is not exactly an accurate reflection of that part of the world, this mindset helped pave the way for modern yoga in the West.
In the early 20th century, yoga as a form of physical exercise came into popularity. This was influenced by the likes of Krishnamacharya, as well as Swami Kuvalayananda and Shri Yogendra. This form of yoga was mostly physical, focusing on asanas derived from Hatha yoga and inspired by Western gymnastics.
One of the reasons why this modern form of yoga became popular is because the founders introduced yoga under the guise of a physical activity, rather than the religious and spiritual connotations.
America and Britain took to this trend gladly, which also helped the Indian nationalism movement, which wanted to improve the image of their nation.
Thanks to the growth of modern yoga during this time, Western individuals became increasingly fascinated with the origins of the physical activity. Over time, and with the eventual acknowledgment of its complex history, modern yoga is both a physical and spiritual practice in the West.
So, there you have it! Yoga is packed with a complex and extensive history, which is why it’s often hard to say exactly who pioneered the modern yoga movement. However, it is generally believed that Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was the founder of modern yoga, thanks to his contributions to yoga in the West.
Frequently Asked Questions
Modern yoga is a term used to reference the yoga movement that was introduced to the Western world in the late nineteenth century.
It was introduced first as a physical activity with no relations to religion or spirituality, and worked well in the newly capitalistic societies of Britain and America.
Overtime, modern yoga has been inspired by traditional yoga practices, allowing for modern yoga to be about both the physical and spiritual benefits.
Nowadays, modern yoga is a physical practice that consists of postures and meditative practices. Yoga, on the other hand, is a traditional Indian practice of self-realization, with far more religious and spiritual connotations.
Traditional yoga isn’t always about asana and physical movement, while modern yoga is more physical and sometimes encompasses spirituality.