Whether you’re an experienced yogi or just starting to explore the practice, you’ve likely heard about the yoga who started it all. Vivekananda and the ancient Indian sage Patanjali were responsible for laying the groundwork for modern studio yoga, and they were followed by a handful of pioneers in the early 20th century. In 1918, Yogendra founded the first organized yoga center in the world, The Yin and Yang Institute in Mumbai. Swami Kuvalayananda founded the ashram Kaivalyadham, the most well-known center in the world.
As the practice spread to the West, yoga departed from its original structure. It was not until the mid-19th century that the practice received widespread acceptance in the United States. The first yogi to travel across the Atlantic, Swami Vivekananda, was the first to openly reject the practice of asana (postures). He considered asana a “low-caste yogin” and instead focused on pranayama, meditation, and positive thinking.
The great sages of India and the east brought yoga to the West. In the nineteenth century, the United States government began imposing immigration quotas on Indian immigrants. In response to the growing popularity of yoga, the Bureau of Immigration created strict guidelines for the immigration of Indians. As a result, a variety of sages from other parts of the world adapted the ancient practice. In 1896, Theos Bernard revived the practice and wrote a book called Hatha: The Report of a Personal Experience, which is considered the genesis of many modern associations.
Despite the emergence of yoga in the early twentieth century, it wasn’t until the mid nineteenth century that its spread was recognized and appreciated. In the wake of the Renaissance, the United States government began to impose immigration quotas for immigrants from India. In addition to enforcing the practice of yoga, the quotas imposed on Indian immigrants hampered immigration from the country. Nonetheless, the ancient sages had a profound effect on the practice of yoga and inspired thousands of people to try it.
As yoga spread from India to the West, many sages of the east adapted the practice and adapted it to suit their own needs. In the 1920s, Swami Vivekananda brought yoga to the western world by making it accessible to Americans. His visits to the United States included raising funds for India’s poor. He even made it popular at World’s Parliament of Religions, a global interfaith dialogue.
Throughout the nineteenth century, yoga was spread through the work of great sages in India and the west. The earliest yogis in the United States were Chinese and Indian men and women who learned the art of yoga from the sages of the East. His influx to the US also helped spread yoga to other parts of the world. In addition to the sages, many modern associations are based on yoga’s popularity.