The origins of Yoga are found in the Indus Valley in India and date back to several millennia BC, to the time of pre-Vedic civilizations.
In ancient times, the techniques of Yoga were kept secret and taught only from master to disciple. The sage Patanjali was the first yogi to compile and organize the various instructions given on Yoga in the classical texts, the Vedas and the Upanishads. Its reference text, the Yoga Sutras, is the first codified system of Yoga, and describes eight limbs :
- Yama, the moral discipline of restraint in our thoughts, words and actions, especially towards others
- Niyama, personal discipline, hygiene of life concerning our body and our mind
- Asana, physical postures ; Patanjali defines them as postures in which the yogi experiences comfort and stability, which means that yogasana are practiced in order to develop the ability of yogis to sit still comfortably during long hours of meditation.
- Pranayama, the control of breathing for the purpose of increasing the prana, the life energy
- Prathyahara, control of the mind and the five senses ; the yogi learns to turn his attention inward rather than outward
- Dharana, concentration, the ability to direct and maintain the mind on a single object
- Dhyana, meditation, effortless and distraction-free on one object
- Samadhi, the union of the mind with its object of meditation
Through the eight aspects of the practice of Yoga described by Patanjali, the yogi succeeds in balancing and harmonizing his body, his emotions, and his mind all along his path.