The history of yoga is a little unclear. Unfortunately its beginning pre-dates Instagram, so it’s a little tricky to figure out when the first pose was invented… Scholars have found pre-philosophical speculations of yoga emerging in the texts of c. 500–200 BCE. Between 200 BCE–500 CE a coherent philosophical system of yoga began to emerge, but as with any form of spiritual practice it has continued to evolve and change up until the present day.
Our asana practice (the poses we do) are 1 of the 8 limbs of Raja Yoga – which is one of the four paths of yoga (Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga) which are essentially disciplines we can practice in order to raise our consciousness levels. There are 84 asanas in classic yogic texts, but today with all the new schools of yoga and variations to poses possible estimates are closer to the range of 40,000. Confused yet? There’s a lot behind it, and that’s the point!
Western yoga classes focus strongly on asana only. We work towards advanced poses – inversions, arm balances and deeper flexibility, but when does it get to the stage where we’re missing the point? In our competitive society we often feel that we need to prove ourselves. We see beautiful asanas like scorpion and king-pigeon and feel that maybe, just maybe, if we work hard enough and push our bodies far enough that one day we’ll get into them.
But then what? Will our consciousness level magically rise? Will we finally be happy? Unfortunately not, but here’s the good thing. If you get onto your mat each day and let go of a final goal - if you focus on your breath, on staying present, on moving your body in a way that feels right for you, things will start to change. If you let go of being perfect, if you work with your unique body, if you show yourself love and compassion, YOU will change. Your yoga practice will start to extend off your mat (where it counts!) and you WILL be happier. You will start to live at higher consciousness levels and raise the consciousness levels of those around you.
You’ll stop caring about getting into impossible poses, and it's only when you let go that you’ll actually get there and realise that it never mattered to begin with. When you finally realise that it’s not about the pose, you’ve started practicing yoga.