Was almost everything (excluding "seated meditation posture") in western yoga invented in twentieth century?

Wikipedia, for example, states that yoga:

originated in ancient India

And does not carry out the difference between the western and ancient Indian versions.

On the other hand Curtis states that:

It was something very new - that had very little to do with traditional Yoga as it had been practiced for centuries.


modern Yoga was constructed out of Western ideas of gymnastics and a modern Indian political nationalism

  • 2
    That's an interesting question but, by definition, "modern" yoga is modern. To make the question clearer, is it possible to ask instead whether some /specific/ technique, belief, or practice of yoga was invented in the 20th century? The (English-language translations of) the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita suggest that "yoga" is somehow a "religious" practice. Conversely the court case referenced in this article suggests that "yoga" as taught in American public schools is not meant to be "religious" in that way.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 11:16
  • @ChrisW ok, i tried to make question more specific
    – valodzka
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


It is false to say that everything but seated meditation posture originated in the 20th century.

The best way to understand what postures existed prior to the 20th century is to read The Gheranda Sanhita: A Treatise on Hatha Yoga as translating into English prior to 1895.

There are eighty-four Lakhs [8,400,000] of Ashanas described by Shiva. These postures being as many in number as the number of species of living creatures in this universe.

Among them eighty-four are the best ; and among these eight-four, thirty-two have been found useful for mankind in this world.

Then the 32 postures are listed.

An example of a posture that does not involve sitting is:

Stand straight on one leg (the left), bending the right leg and placing the right foot on the root of the left thigh; standing thus like a tree on the ground is called the Tree-posture

But there are several others.

  • 1
    It would, I think, be a better result to examine the postures used in present-day yoga. Even if there were 32 postures listed in old texts, if they were not presently used then it would be still true to say that modern yoga was mostly invented recently. Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 19:34
  • The 32 positions on pages 12 to 19 of web.archive.org/web/20140124005530/http://brihaspati.net/… are not very suggestive of contemporary western Yoga. Even less so what comes later such as cutting the lower tendon of the tongue and stretching it with an iron instrument so it can touch between the eyebrows (page 24)
    – Henry
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 23:12

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