The ancient practice of Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years. In fact, the very first references to yoga postures have been found on artefacts dating back to 3,000 BC. Yoga is the only form of exercise that leads to physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. There are various lineages of yoga and each of them has adapted the basics and evolved them further. We take a look at the most influential lineages of yoga over the years.

T Krishnamacharya

Yoga as we know today is largely hatha yoga that focuses essentially on the physical strength-building exercises and postures – known as asanas. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva himself is considered the founder of Hatha yoga and it has been passed down from disciple to disciple. Vedic scholar and yogi T Krishnamacharya are considered the father of modern yoga. He was responsible for reviving this ancient form of exercise in the early 1900s. The most widely practiced yoga falls under this lineage. Krishnamacharya adapted the ancient teachings of yoga to create practices that can lead to better health, mental fitness, and spiritual awareness. The three major lineages of Indian yoga (detailed below) all stem from Krishnamacharya’s teachings.

T K V Desikachar

Krishnamacharya’s son Desikachar inherited his father’s mantle and carried forward his teachings. His practices are based on Krishnamacharya’s philosophy that yoga must be adapted to the changing needs of an individual. Desikachar also founded a branch of yoga called Viniyoga. This type of yoga is occasionally intense and postures are adapted as practice continues. It is particularly therapeutic for back pain. His most famous disciple is Gary Kraftsow who runs the American Viniyoga Institue in Maui, Hawaii.

B K S Iyengar

Another disciple of Krishnamacharya was his brother-in-law B K S Iyengar – arguably the best-known name in the field of yoga. This is largely because of his book ‘Light on Yoga’ that was published in 1966 and is in print to date. Founder of the Iyengar branch of yoga, his practice differed slightly from his guru’s. Iyengar yoga places a lot of importance on the correct alignment of the body and each posture involves slow, precise movements. Props such as belts, blocks, chairs and even walls have been incorporated to modify the postures as per the practitioner’s ability. B K S Iyengar has been awarded the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan.

Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois

Jois is the creator of the well-known Ashtanga yoga practice, which is named after the eight limbs of yoga as mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – the ancient text of Yoga. A set of quite challenging postures, Ashtanga yoga involves a prescribed set of sun salutations (suryanamaskars), followed by vigorous standing, balancing and reclining asanas. Advanced practices include intricate internal locks and focusing your gaze. Ashtanga yoga is a precursor to other styles such as power yoga (fast-paced yoga) and vinyasa (flowing from one pose to another).

These are the most influential lineages of yoga. The practice itself has evolved into many different styles such as Ananda yoga (involves gentle poses), Bikram yoga (practiced in a room heated to a 100 degrees) and Sivananda yoga (a mix of sun salutations, hatha yoga, and savasana) and other hybrids.

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