Yoga is an ancient spiritual concept that originated in the East, namely India and Nepal. Yoga is a reference to traditional physical and mental practices that have been used for thousands of years in India and the East and is now benefitting the lives of yoga practitioners throughout the world. Despite its philosophical look it has a physical basis that equals the spiritual. Yoga is a series of practices, action, method and technique that calms the mind and channels energy in positive directions.
It is still not established as to precisely how long Yoga has been with us, but Yoga experts have so far concluded that the history of Yoga spans between 4000 to 8000 years ago to the present day. The earliest yoga findings have been found at the Indus Valley civilization’s sites, and these were active around the Indus Valley region in India circa 1700 – 3300 BC. Of course, there will always be new discoveries and Yoga findings and no one as yet could give a definite timeline for this ancient tradition.
Several seals were discovered at the Indus Valley civilization sites in North West India that showed people in meditative yoga like postures. Many experts agree that these seals were depicting a precursor of modern day yoga. One of the most well known and famous seals discovered in India was discovered by Sir John Marshall and is called the Pashupati seal. It depicts a three faced figure seated on a throne in a version of the Hatha yoga, a cross legged yoga posture. Both heels of the yogi sit directly under the scrotum and the yogi’s penis is erect, with the testicles clearly visible. The position of the heels is an advanced Tantric yoga known as Bhanda. This yoga method has been traditionally used redirect sexual energy and can give the practitioner spiritual powers. The figure on this seal is thought to be Shiva. On the right hand side of this figure a large tiger rears upwards facing him and some suggest it represents the yogi people and the Himalayan region, whereas a depiction of elephant on the Shiva seal represents Eastern India, the buffalo represents Southern India and the rhinoceros represents the regions to the west of in the Indus River.
Whatever the exact starting date of yoga is, one thing is very clear, India has had a long history with the practice of yoga and still today it is considered the primary place in the world to study and practice yoga. Many yoga practitioners wishing to take their yoga studies further often go to India for teacher training courses at the numerous workshops there. There are many teacher training courses in India that take place in workshops at ashrams and yoga retreats in India throughout the year. And the number of yoga teacher training centres in India is growing yearly as the world grows smaller and more people are heading to India the spiritual heart land of Yoga, and learning how to pass on the yoga light itself, by teaching others this ancient practice from India.
Yoga practitioners who travel to India to practice yoga often beeline for the holy city of Varanasi and join one of the many yoga ashrams or yoga retreats that have established themselves there. For many westerners the ultimate yoga experience is to become part of an ashram in Varanasi, experiencing Indian culture first hand and practicing yoga to their heart’s content under the skillful guidance of experienced yoga teachers in a workshop.
Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest living cities where time and has stood still in many ways. For several thousand years and still today Varanasi is one of the most religious areas of Northern India for Hindus and many will go there to be buried in the holy River Ganges that flows through the city. Varanasi has been a centre of Indian philosophy, yoga, mysticism and Ayurveda for so long that many hard core yoga practitioners feel it’s almost a necessity to practice yoga in a Varanasi ashram to achieve a high level of yoga ability. Teacher training courses (TTC) and workshops are also available in many of the Varanasi ashrams and retreats and there is a constant stream of westerners travelling to India and in particular Varanasi to take their yoga practice one stage further and become a teacher of yoga at a teacher training centre. At Varanasi there is a great traditional of teaching yoga, learning yoga and practicing yoga and this tradition still carries on today in ashrams all over the city.
Yoga teacher training courses (TTC) in Varanasi and all over India are usually completed at ashrams or yoga retreats. An ashram is a place where students of Indian philosophies can go to study with experienced teachers and with as little as possible disturbance from the outside world. Ashrams in Varanasi are also called yoga retreats and a yoga class is called a yoga workshop.
Everyone is welcomed at ashrams in India, from beginner yoga practitioners to more experienced people that are taking teaching training courses in yoga workshops, hoping to one day become a yoga teacher themselves. Teacher training courses (TTC) include being taught how to understand, correct, assist, encourage and guide students in yoga. As well as this, the teacher training courses teach people practical teaching methods for yoga workshops, such as making yoga lesson plans and teaching educational techniques to explain the principles of yoga.
The widespread use of yoga throughout the western world is largely due to its health benefits, and many westerners with chronic health problems are now practicing yoga as a resort to tackle these issues. Many people are now aware of the physical benefits of practicing yoga which include improved flexibility, greater strength, better concentration and improved posture.
The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings and is actually derived from the Sanskrit verbal root ‘yuj’ which means to “yoke” or “join” with the supreme spirit. A fair translation would be that yoga helps a person to absorb and reach a state of union with a divine spirit using the spiritual and physical practices of yoga. Yoga is a scientific practice that teaches people the method of uniting the individual soul with the Supreme soul.
Yogi Nomad has more informationa about Yoga retreats in India and yoga retreats in Varanasi.
For Yoga retreats in other areas and Teacher Training courses in Nepal you can visit us at www.yogi-nomad.org