The art of Yoga has existed for countless centuries. Thanks to the recent focus upon wellness and natural health remedies, this practice now enjoys millions of followers from all walks of life. Much like any ancient art form, many variations of yoga have developed over the years. Some of these have been influenced by western practices while others have remained more in tune with their native roots. However, is there any one type of yoga that is considered to be the most traditional? Let us briefly try to answer this rather interesting question.
The Notion of “Traditional” Yoga
One of the challenges associated with labeling one form of yoga more “traditional” than the others involves chronology. In other words, there are gaps in historical texts. These have led some sects to claim that they are older than others. In other instances, oral history supersedes fact. Having said this, there are still seven forms of traditional yoga:
- Raja yoga
- Karma yoga
- Jnana yoga
- Bhakti yoga
- Mantra yoga
- Tantra yoga
- Hatha yoga
You are likely already familiar with Hatha yoga, as this version tends to be the one most frequently practiced. Now that we have looked at seven classical sects, is there any one that can still claim to be the most traditional?
Vedic Yoga: The Oldest Form in Existence?
Most experts agree that Vedic yoga is the oldest known form that is still in existence. To put this into perspective, Vedic yoga was first mentioned in the Rig Veda (hence the etymology). It is thought that this Sanskrit work was created more than 10,000 years ago. Assuming that such dating is accurate, it can be concluded that Vedic Yoga is therefore the oldest form that is still enjoyed by countless practitioners. This ancient spiritual practice is based primarily on Vedic meditation techniques.
Tradition in Modern Times
However, we need to be careful to avoid confusing age with tradition. The main issue here is that even older versions can be changed and updated based on the needs of modern practitioners. For example, the martial art Shotokan was only developed in the early 20th century and yet, it can trace its roots back to the monk Bodhidharma (Daruma Taishi in Japanese).
Although the presence of a yoga mat will not change the way certain movements are performed, modern science could very well influence specific practices. For instance, traditional Hatha yoga will often incorporate elements from different styles, such as the inward attention associated with Jnana yoga or the repetition of sounds unique to Mantra yoga.
So, what have we learned? If the most traditional form of yoga is defined by its age, then there is no doubt that Vedic yoga is at the top of the list. However, we need to remember that yoga practices have evolved over hundreds of years, and each practice has its own unique traits. This is why it is always a good idea to experiment with each in order to discover which is the most suited for your personal requirements, needs, and goals.