Yoga has gained immense popularity across the world in the past few decades. There are more people taking up the practice of yoga for massive improvements in physical and mental well being. This thousands of year old practice originated in India during the Vedic period. Nowadays, there are multiple popular forms of yoga like Hot yoga, Aerial yoga, Chair yoga and Kundalini yoga. There are even yoga forms like Beer yoga and Goat yoga. But have you ever considered ‘Who is the father of yoga’, the person who founded the modern yoga practice?
Who is the father of yoga?
Sage patanjali is considered as the father/founder of yoga in its modern form. He is the author of the first seminal text on yoga practice, ‘The Yoga Sutras’.
Although Lord Shiva is considered to be the first yogi or the ‘Adiyogi’, the credit for initiating the yoga practice as we know it today is given to Sage Patanjali.
In fact, there is an Indian consumer goods company called Patanjali Ayurveda. It has been established by the famed Indian yoga guru Baba Ramdev and has been named after the father of yoga himself.
Who was Sage Patanjali?
Sage Patanjali who is actually the founder of modern yoga as a discipline is believed to have lived in India roughly between 500 BC to 200 B.C.
Due to the antiquated origins, his birth and life has a number of myths surrounding it. According to some myths, he is sometimes even considered as an incarnation of Seshanaag.
In fact, there is very limited information about his life to establish any reliable timeline as well. In addition, there have been multiple individuals who were named Patanjali, in the annals of Indian tradition .
There were at least three well known individuals in Indian history called Patanjali.
Multiple historians believe that these three individuals were a part of different eras but according to Indian tradition, all the contributions below have been done by one person, Sage Patanjali, who is also the founder of yoga.
The details for these three individuals are as following:
- First: He is the person credited with the authorship of the first authoritative text on yoga called “The Yoga Sutras”. It is also believed that he wrote a scholarly commentary on the authoritative text of Sanskrit grammar by Sage Panini called ‘Ashtadhyayi’.
- Second: He is considered to be the author of the ‘Nidana sutras’ which are a Vedic studies’ resource
- Third: He was a teacher of ‘Samkhya philosophy’.
What are Sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras?
The yoga Sutras is believed to be the first seminal text written on yoga. It was written about 2000 years ago and is first and the oldest treatise written on the subject.
The book describes yogas theory and practice. The goal of yoga as a discipline is to bring a greater integration between the yoga practitioner’s mind and body.
If you are a beginner and you are looking to kick start your yoga practice, you might need yoga accessories for initial stages of your practice. You can refer our guides on yoga equipment for better understanding on what you actually need.
The credit of brining The yoga sutras in popular consciousness in the modern era goes to Swami Vivekananda. He was a great Indian yogi and philosopher who published his work on ‘Raja yoga’ in 1896. This was considered to be the reintroduction of Patanjali’s yoga sutras to the modern world.
So what do ‘The yoga sutras’ consist of?
Sage Patanjali’s treatise is divided into four chapters. It consists of about 1200 words which is divided into the following four parts.
- Samadhi Pada
- Sadhana Pada
- Vibhuti Pada
- Kaivalya Pada
These four chapters are made of 195 Aphorisms (Sutras). The meaning of a ‘Sutra’ in sanskrit is a thread. Each of these aphorisms are philosophical statements made about the yogic practice.
Ashtanga or eight limbs of yoga
In Patanjali’s treatise, yoga is classified into 8 parts. These forms which are also referred as the ‘Eight limbs of yoga’ are as following.
- Yama: Focus on non-violence and truthfulness
- Niyama: Practices to the build the character of the practitioner
- Asanas: Physical part of yogic practice concerned with yogic postures and asanas.
- Pranayama: Practice of control of breath. Since breath can be used to help you concentrate and improve your overall well being
Myths surrounding the birth of Sage Patanjali
As there is a lot of conflicting information about Sage Patanjali, there are multiple myths about his birth as well. He is considered as an incarnation of god who took birth in the human form on earth to help humanity.
In fact, he is considered to be an incarnation of lord Sheshnag in the most popular myth about his birth.
The most popular legend about his birth is as follows.
Lord Vishnu was once watching the dance movements of Lord Shiva according to this legend. Lord Shiva is also referred as Nataraj in Hindu mythology.
While he was watching the dance, Lord Vishnu’s body also started to move with the rhythm and this made his body heavier. As Lord Sheshnag is the Shayya of Lord Vishnu, he had to bear this increased weight. It caused a lot of discomfort to him.
As soon as the dance of Lord Shiva was over, Lord Vishnu’s body became lighter. Lord Sheshnag evinced interest to Lord Vishnu for learning the art of dance since he wanted to understand the reason for the transformation.
He was promised that he will get a chance to learn dance through Lord Shiva after he takes birth in human form on earth. To learn more about his mother in the earthly form, Lord Sheshnag started mediation.
He realized that he will be born as an offspring to an Indian yogi ‘Gonika’ who also wanted a son.
The story of Patanjali’s birth is also very interesting. The name ‘Patanjali’ literally means someone who has fallen into the palms of another person.
The legend goes that Gonika was praying for a son to Sun god when she realized that there was a tiny snake in her palms that have been folded in a prayer. This snake later took a human form and became Patanjali.
Patanjali’s name is literally based on the myth related to his birth.
- Light on Patanjali Yoga Sutras” by B.K.S. Iyengar