By Marcello Oliveira
Once upon a time, a famous dancer improvised instinctive movements that were, however, extremely sophisticated due to his virtuosity; and because of this very fact, absolutely beautiful. This body language was not exactly a dance, but it had undeniably been inspired by it.
The captivating beauty of the technique moved all those who watched; they were overwhelmed with its expressiveness, and asked the dancer to teach them his art; and so he did. In the beginning, the method had no name. It was something spontaneous that came from within and only echoed in the hearts of those who had been born adorned by a more refined sensibility.
As the years passed, the great dancer was able to convey a good part of his knowledge until one day, long after, the Master passed on to the invisible planes. His art, however, did not die. The most loyal disciples preserved it and assumed the mission of re-transmitting it. The pupils of this generation understood the importance of also becoming teachers, and of modifying nothing – altering nothing of the outstanding teachings of the first Mentor.
At some moment in History, this art received the name integrity, integration, union: in Sanskrit, Yoga! Its founder was entered into mythology with the name of Shiva and with the title of Natar Ja, King of the Dancers.
These facts occurred more than 5,000 years ago in the Northeast of India, in the Indus Valley, populated by the Dravidian people. Therefore, we will study the origins of Yoga in this period, and find its original purpose, so that we can identify authentic teachings and distinguish them from others that have been compromised by consumerism and interference from alien and incompatible methods.
Yoga, Tantra and S¡mkhya, were developed by this admirable people. Their civilization, which is also one of the most advanced of ancient times, was lost and forgotten for thousands of years until archaeologists, at the end of the 19th century, encountered evidence of its existence and excavated two important archaeological sites, where they discovered the cities of Harapp¡ and Mohenjo-Daro. Later, more and more sites were uncovered. Today, there are already thousands of sites distributed over an area larger than that of Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The archaeologists were impressed with what they encountered. Their excavations of the cities revealed urban planning. Instead of tortuously narrow roads, wide avenues of up to 14 meters, running from North to South and East to West, were found. Among these, there were streets for pedestrians on which ox-carts did not travel. On these streets, the middle class houses had two stories, internal atrium, indoor lavatories, and running water! Don’t forget that we are talking about a civilization that flourished over 3,000 years before Christ.
This is not all, however. Lighting on the streets and covered sanitation systems, children’s toys, such as cars having wheels that turned as well as detailed images of bull’s heads, and dolls with implanted hair were found. Imposing barns, that had an ingenious system of ventilation and elevated platforms to facilitate the loading and unloading of ox-carts, were uncovered. In other cultures of the same period, the buildings of the sovereigns showed opulent palaces and majestic royal tombs, while the people subsisted in filthy shacks. In the Dravidian culture, on the contrary, people lived well and the architecture of the public administration was simple.
Gaston Courtillier noted another significant difference between this and other civilizations. We are truly surprised that, in those profoundly religious times, we did not find temples or remnants of statues, not even of adoration or of divinity for oration, which was the rule in other regions throughout ancient times. For us, this makes sense, after all, we know that in Ancient India, S¡mkhya, had its moment of splendor; and in pre-classic India, the Nirshwara S¡mkhya variety was even more naturalistic than Classic S¡mkhya.
The Dravidian society has been identified as matriarchal, which is also coherent with our sources, which show Yoga came from a Tantric culture. Even farther below the ruins of the first cities, archaeologists discovered other cities. To their surprise, further down they encountered yet another, which was still more ancient.
They dug more and found another city below that one – and yet another, and another. What called their attention was the fact that, the deeper they excavated, the more advanced the technology – not only in terms of the architecture, but also in regard to the utensils. This continued, until eventually, they reached an underground aquifer, and their excavations were forced to halt. In light of these discoveries, what we must ask ourselves is: how many other cities were there under those, and how much more evolved would they have been? In any case, it was from this Dravidian civilization, a Tantric (matriarchal) and S¡mkhya (naturalistic) civilization, that Yoga emerged.
Around one thousand five hundred years after the earliest city uncovered in the excavations flourished, historical facts show that the civilization of the Indus Valley was invaded by a sub-barbarian people, the Aryans or Arians, who came from Central Europe. It is shown in current historical facts that these Arians destroyed the Dravidian civilization, absorbing some parts of their culture into their own, exterminating almost all those who were conquered, and enslaving the few survivors. Others escaped, migrating to the extreme south of India and Sri Lanka, where their descendants live until today. Today, they are referred to as the Tamil.
Yoga was the product of a non-warring, naturalist, and matriarchal civilization. From 1,500 B.C. on, it began to be absorbed by another people (the Arians), which were their polar opposite: warring, mystical and patriarchal. Around twelve hundred years after the invasion (which is by no means a short period), Yoga was formally Arianized, through the celebrated work the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali.
This work inaugurated a re-reading of Yoga, and from that point on, it would be known as Yoga Darshana, or Classic Yoga, which proposed nothing less than the opposite of the behavior proposed by the true Yoga of Dravidian origin. The Yoga of the Dravids was matriarchal, sensorial and non-repressive or, in a single word, Tantric. This new Arianized interpretation was patriarchal, anti-sensorial, and repressive – in other words, Brahmacharya. The most interesting thing about this process of disruption is that if it weren’t for Patanjali, Yoga would have disappeared from the records of History. Because of his efforts, which were obviously well intentioned and wise, today, his codification of Classic Yoga exists and is known to us.
Adapting Yoga to the reality of the Arians, who discriminated against everything typically Dravidian, because of its matriarchal characteristics (considered subversive by the dominant patriarchal society), Patanjali was able to get Arian society, and its constituent powers of that time, to accept it; and with this, such a tradition has reached us today. After Patanjali’s work, in the Middle Ages, Yoga suffered another grave disfigurement when the grand Master of Vedanta philosophy, Shankaracharya, converted a large part of the population. This was reflected in Yoga, because with the majority of Indians converted to Vedanta, when practicing Yoga, public opinion and its leaders also conferred a spiritualistic format to Yoga, which, from its Dravidian origins, and even during the Classic Period, was fundamentally of a S¡mkhya or naturalistic philosophy. In the 20th century, Yoga suffered still another tremendous blow: it was discovered by the Occident and, of course, Westernized.
It became utilitarian, consumerist, something amorphous, ugly and dull. Legitimate Yoga, however, is beautiful to watch; it is fascinating to practice; and it is excellent as a philosophy of life. It is dynamic and it is strong. The problem is that many people without certification as Yoga teachers have designated themselves to teach and, because they do not possess a repertoire of techniques, they mix a little of gymnastics, a bit of esoterism, a tad of hypnotism, a pinch of spiritualism, something of the language Tai-Chi, some concepts of macrobiotics. All this, they temper in an alternative therapeutic atmosphere, then package it for consumption in a soft voice with new-age music. For the inexperienced, who do not have the slightest idea of what Yoga is, aside from a stereotyped and false vision, this fallacious miscellaneous satisfies.
However, it has nothing to do with Yoga. We should not forget that the word Yoga means integrity and so, it must be represented integrally, in its entirety. For this reason, in the our blog, you will have the satisfaction of getting to know a modality of Yoga that is fascinating, absolutely beautiful, extremely satisfying to practice and one charged with results capable of leaving anyone bewildered. It is S¡mkhya Yoga, the very Pre-Classic, Pre-Arian, Pre-Vedic, Proto-Historic Yoga of Shiva, the ultra-integral Yoga, with the characteristics of Tantra and S¡mkhya preserved, and what is more, its execution is reminiscent of a dance, recovered from the most remote layers of the collective unconscious!
Article written by Marcello Oliveira, Instructor of Swasthya, The Ancient Yoga and member of The International University of Yoga.
To see our selection of Yoga teacher training and continuing education courses, please visit the following link.
Free report, newsletter, videos, podcasts, and e-Book: “Yoga in Practice.”
If you are a Yoga Teacher, studio owner, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is, including the resource box above. Namaste!