History of Fitness- Yoga!

The history of fitness is important to how we fitness today! Last time we talked about how Kung Fu came about in the time of Confucius in China, but did you know that in the same historical period there was another practice we use today being adopted not in China, but in India?

During the pre-Vedic period in India (around 2700 BC), we see the first historical evidence of Yoga as a practice. This period had an influence on Hinduism later, to which yoga became closely tied. Yoga has long been used as a way to boost mental and physical wellbeing. As a whole, Yoga is composed of a group of movements that focuses on physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines, and comprises practices centered around breathing, flexibility, and strength of both the body and mind.

The history of yoga dates so far back that it was originally written about in Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages in the world, and the basis of many languages spoken in India today. As yoga evolved, more and more poses were used, and now it is believed that there are 19 different types of yoga and 66 basic yoga postures (although there are countless variations of these)!

Hinduism (and Buddhism, which were practiced around the same time periods) shifted focus from laborious physical activity to a more spiritual approach to life. Because of this, the pursuit of individual physical fitness, in the sense that we tend to refer to it today, was discouraged. However, Hindu monks at the time found yoga to be a great way to remain physically fit while adhering to their religious beliefs. Slow, calculated movements that emulated those found in the animal kingdom and nature as a whole became a way for monks and those following Hinduism to move their bodies in a mindful, spiritual way. Therefore, Yoga is amongst the six schools of philosophy in Hinduism, and is also a major meditation practice in Buddhism, both of which are still practiced today.

The Western world was introduced to this practice as early as 1883 when Swami Vivekananda came to the United States (Chicago in fact!) in 1883, and was embraced more widely in the 1920s and 1930s. Yoga really hit its stride in the US starting in the 1960s, when it was popularized by the Hippie and New Age movements, where it was televised to a larger audience with a more approachable and practical form. By the 1980s and 1990s, with the introduction of VHS tapes in conjunction with the rise of the fitness industry, yoga had become a staple for many Americans both at home, and as a part of their gym routine. Today, yoga as a practice is a billion-dollar industry, practiced by tens of millions of people throughout America!

At FIT, we don’t teach Yoga as our primary form of exercise in its traditional sense, but many aspects of Yoga are incorporated into many different workouts! For instance, did you know that planks were originally a yoga pose? Many of the full body workouts we do here incorporate modified yoga poses as well! Yoga is also fantastic for the beginning or end of your workout to stretch and become more in-tune with how your body feels that day. No doubt, Yoga has become an important part of the fitness world, not only in India where it originated, but across the globe! It has been an important part of the fitness culture for thousands of years, and is here to stay!

How much do you know about yoga? How to incorporate yoga into your daily workouts? Have you ever used yoga as a way to become more centered with your body and mind? Let us know, and next time you have a heavy workout, remember that it never hurts to do some deep breathing and stretching afterward, and yoga is a fantastic way to do just that!