The roots of yoga that we practice now were developed in India. Proof of which was found from the archaeological excavations made in the Indus valley. The artifacts unearthed at these sites depicted Indian mythological characters in various yoga postures and some were depicted to be meditating. Carbon dating of these artifacts estimate them to be some 5000 years old. These discoveries prove that yoga was practiced in India well before the so called Aryan Invasion.
Aryan Invasion is a myth propagated by the British during their reign in India. According to the theory of Aryan Invasion, the vedic era in India started once the Aryans invaded and settled in India. According to the theory, the Vedas and Hindu philosophy was given to India by the Aryans, before which the Indian race was barbaric. This propaganda was intended to downplay Indian civilization and to create a divide between the pre-independence Indian population. They succeeded in doing so by using the Sanskrit terms ‘Aryan’ and ‘Dravidian’ to differentiate the people of north and South India. Sadly, this faulty account of Aryan and Dravidian races still does echo in our books of history. Anyway, the discoveries from the ruins of Indus Valley put the false accounts of Aryan invasion at rest.
Yoga was first mentioned in the ancient Vedas, which are known to be at least 5000 year old texts. Though specific yoga practices are not mentioned in the Vedas, they mention yoga in a symbolic form. The verses of Vedas are believed to be vocalized while being in the state of total spiritual bliss (Samadhi). For this reason Vedas are considered as scriptures that are revealed, but not composed. They are considered to be the medium of transferring divine knowledge.
Vedas illustrate the essence of yoga in an indirect manner, they are considered the first scriptures on yoga. Rig Veda has repeated mention of the word yoga in relation to abilities, for example the ability to earn yoga was referred to as ‘Dhana Yoga’. The context and real essence of the usage of the word yoga in Vedas would be difficult for us to comprehend today. If we read the Vedas today, we would be lost and end up confused in the verbal and symbolic references instead of grasping the essence.
Concepts like Dharana (concentration with effort) and Dhyana (meditation or effortless concentration) were explained very briefly in Vedas. These brief references were enough as the concepts of ‘Self’ or ‘Consciousness’ were fully understood by the seers at that time. They lived in a time when highly evolved yogis were everywhere. Even members of a simple household would be aware of consciousness and that it is beyond body and mind which needs to be realized from within.
Self realization is not an indigenous concept of India. Often referred by different names, realized people existed in many cultures, in every part of the world and in every time period. This could be understood as the confluence of different rivers from different parts of the earth into one ocean. Self realization is universal, no religion or culture or a person can have monopoly over it.
Vedas briefly expound on the essence of Chakras (pranic centers), a concept to understand and work with the energies of the body. Along with Chakras, Vedas emphasize on the usage of mantras (psychic sounds) to attain material and spiritual goals. In this sense, the people of vedic times were probably more advanced in terms of spiritual understanding than the people of today. Though the knowledge of yoga existed thousands of years before the vedic period, it is quite possible that the system of yoga wasn’t well expressed during the vedic period. At that time, the yogic essence was known to many, but it was not yet available as a systematized form of today. It is after the time of Bramhanas and Upanishads that Yoga started taking a definite form.