The Yoga of Bhagavad Gita

The early period of yoga is referred to as the pre-Classical period. During this time, 1000 to 100 BCE, yoga debuted in the writings of the Bhagavad Gita or Lord’s Song (dating ca 500-300 BCE). This epic poem referred to yoga as “skill in action”, “equanimity,” and “balance.” Another work from this period was the Yoga Darshama or Yoga Sutras. This work linked forever to the legendary Pantajali was written around 200 BCE. This work and the teachings of Pantajali were responsible for founding the Classical approach to or school of yoga.

Clasical Yoga

The Classical school of yoga focused and continues to focus on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. It is currently the oldest form of yoga instruction. The 195 threads (sutras) attempt to standardize the various approaches to the practice. All practitioners are to follow the Eight-Fold Path of Yoga. This is also known as the 8 Limbs of Classical Yoga.

Behind the purpose of these 8 limbs was the new concept of the separation of matter (prakati) and spirit (purusha). Pentajali felt the individual practitioner needed to separate the 2 in order to achieve the cleansing of the spirit.

In the 19th century, yoga began its migration to the west. It was examined first as part of an Eastern philosophical approach. Lecturers at universities during the 1800s in England looked at it as a manifestation of Asian religion. The focus was on its health aspects and implementation of a vegetarian or vegan regime. By the late 1890s, it was on its way to becoming a part of North American intellectual life as well.

The actual practice of yoga arrived in the United States between 1920 and 1924. The restrictions on Indian immigration slowed it down after 1924 until the 1930s. Paul Brunton introduced readers to the subject in 1934 Jiddu Krishnamurti provided guidance in Jhana yoga. He was joined during this period by Iyengar and Desikachar, to name a few.

Bhagavad Gita

Modern Yoga history

The 1940s, 1950s and 1960s saw further growth in the United States and Europe. Theo Barnard wrote his classic on the subject – Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience in 1947. Richard Hittleman penned The Twenty-Eight-Day Yoga Plan in 1961. He was a disciple of Ramana Maharashi. It was also the 1960s that saw a major influx in various yoga masters including the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. His association with the Beatles guaranteed the public’s interest.

Between 1960 and 1980, the interest in yoga and its various approaches soared. Yogi Bhajan opted to break with the traditional approach and openly taught Kudalini Yoga. Swami Vishnudevananda wrote the Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga while Swami Satchitananda inspired the Woodstock generation. Yoga also became available to television viewers. Lilas Folan had a series “Lilas Folan – Lilas, Yoga and You” which ran from 1970 to 1979.

Holistic Yoga

From 1980 onwards, more and more schools teaching yoga became the norm. Hatha yoga became the most common form, but others have also made inroads into what is now part of a holistic fitness industry. Yet, yoga is more than a study of body postures and motions. It is a meditative practice and a way to unify the various aspects of the human form. Not simply a physical method of body toning, it is also a philosophy.

There are many things to learn in order to be able to understand yoga. The basic terminology can be confusing. The implementation of terms and their application may also vary within the different forms of yoga. There are, however, commonalities that bind the diverse types of yoga together. They provide a commonality that is stronger than the differences. Understanding this will help a beginner grasp the basics clearly before moving further along the path.

Yoga is a popular system in modern world more than ever. It is extremely popular in the United States. In the past several decades Yoga schools, teachers and classes have been busily popping up all across the country. There are several reasons for this.

The nature of Yoga is holistic or individualistic. It arrives and is shaped in many forms. Yoga is a method or a vehicle used to explore any of many things. These range from the perfect body to inner peace, self-empowerment to union with the environment or the Divine.

If you want to devote yourself to seeking the Sublime Divine, there is a yoga for you. If you want to work out to obtain inner calm – there is a yoga for you. In fact, there is possibly a yoga type designed to meet the needs of almost everyone.

Hatha Yoga

Yoga may be traditional or classical such as Hatha Yoga. It may be exercise-oriented such as Power Yoga. Yoga may also involve its followers and practitioners in a search for their meaning in life, unity with the Divine or in activism. While Hatha Yoga provides the basic essence for many  Yoga practices, there are inspirations from other Asian countries. Thai and Zen Yoga are but 2 of an ever widening approach to a singular process.

Yet, in spite of the varied groups who urge individuals to practice yoga in accordance to their concepts and methods, yoga remains constant in its affinity to its origins. In it, the importance of the breath of life is paramount. It is only through breath that the energy of our life and the reality of our life is manifestly obvious.

Yoga Breathing

Yoga utilizes breathing and all that it entails and symbolizes. Even when reduced to physical exercises, breath remains important and significant. When a practitioner combines the breathing techniques of pranayama with asana (movements, postures or even motions) and meditation, the result is complete. It is as individualistic or group encompassing as yoga, the practitioner and teacher permit.

It is not surprising yoga remains popular and continues to build a strong basis. It mutates and adapts with the times while keeping its central truth at the core. There is no surprise here.


Meditating lady

In turning to yoga, some find the means to tone their body and strengthen their inner core; others find a way to reach an inner peace and uncover the true meaning of spiritual.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this post or this site in general.

I will answer all the comments on my website personally so drop me a line below if you have any Yoga questions or comments.

I’m happy to help any way that I can.


Namaste Shane.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietitian before starting any fitness program or making any changes to your diet.

2 thoughts on “The Yoga of Bhagavad Gita”

  1. This was a great education on the history of Yoga and how all the different schools of thought came about. I have attended various classes over the years and all the instructors have had different ways of teaching it. Some focus on the spirituality, others more on the breathing, and others on the stretching and relaxation. Either way I always felt great after all the classes, even though I battled with some of the stretches and positions, as I am not naturally supple.

    Which is your favourite method of Yoga?

    • Hello Michel, 

      Appreciate the positive feed back.

      I also enjoy all the different teachers I have met over the years. 

      They all have their own perspective on what yoga means to them. 

      Thank you the great question on what is my favourite yoga. 

      Tough to give an answer as I like all types of yoga. 

      A gentle type of yoga like Hatha with a good session of meditation does it for me. 

      Namaste Shane.


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