The Evolution of Modern Yoga

March 25 | The Practice |

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The evolution of modern yoga

The yoga that we know and love today has come such a long way from its beginnings. The evolution of modern yoga, like most creative things, has taken so many paths, twists and turns that it is really incredible all the different forms of yoga that have come to fruition.

Modern yoga, like most has its enthusiasts and its critics, which provide healthy debate about the future of the practice. I stand firmly in the camp that almost any kind of yoga is good, we all have our own paths to the mat, and if it is through a gym class, an online video or a traditional book- yoga is yoga.

The Origin of Yoga

The Original Yoga “bible” that details the theories and explains the asanas were said to be compiled into one such book by the scholar Patanjali in the 2nd or 3rd century B.C. and is called the Yoga Sutras. The system that Patanjali wrote about was the classic Eight Limbs of Yoga, which is where the term “Ashtanga Yoga” came from, although the belief system laid down in the Yoga Sutras is now better known as Raja Yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga is known around the world, and while many think it is the oldest version of yoga, it is actually one of the newest modern yoga school founded by Indian guru Patthabi Jois in the second half of the 20th century. However, it was Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that gave birth to the modern yoga movement as we now know it in both the East and the West, making it one of the most influential kinds of yoga in our modern world.



Though today’s yoga is often very different from Patanjali’s yoga, and offers much more variety, the essence of Patanjali’s sutras remains across many styles of yoga. The eight limbs he outlined in the sutras are:

1. Yama (restraint)
2. Niyama (observances)
3. Asana (the physical yoga exercise)
4. Pranayama (breathing techniques)
5. Pratyahara (preparing for meditation)
6. Dharana (concentration, which helps prepare for meditation)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (absorption, where we try to submerge with the eternal and divine)

Modern Yoga

Most of all current  yoga styles and practices concentrate on just two of these limbs: Asana and Pranayama. Which again, is a great way to be introduced to the practice, breath and movement are relatable to most people, making yoga seem less foreign and exotic.  The other eight limbs are more esoteric and require a lifestyle commitment that is not practical for the average person, but most after years of doing asana do find their way down the other paths in varying degrees.

What’s important, regardless of the style of yoga one chooses to practice, and the most important is to commit to the practice. It might be once a week, but whatever you commit to, stick to it. The practice changes you through consistent time on the mat and commitment to that time no matter how you feel, how tire you may be.  You show up everytime and see what arises. You might be surprised as to what transpires.

To me, what is the most important is to find a yoga home you love and teachers that you connect with on their teaching philosophy.  A knowledgeable and inspiring teacher is worth its weight in gold, and I am happy to say that Yoga Six is filled with them. At its heart, the essence of yoga is this student/teacher relationship and the intuitive passing along of knowledge from one generation to another, in whatever form that might be.

As with all things, yoga will continue to evolve and Yoga Six is grateful to be a part of the evolution of modern yoga.