ankhmor

Common history of yoga and qigong

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Good day folks!

 

I tried to look into common history of qigong and yogic asanas (the physical bit of yoga), and so far has had no luck with google.

 

I have just two pieces of information.

-- Qigong seems to have been fairly evolved by 2nd century BC. That's the dating of the silk scrolls depicting qigong practice.

-- Around the same time period, there is the earliest written mention of asanas, albeit without specific examples.

 

That's all I've been able to find.

The google search of a common history keeps leading me to yoga and qigong comparisons, but I'm not interested in that.

I want to learn about their common history, if there is one. Perhaps they have a common ancestor? Perhaps they originated completely separately? Perhaps we know nothing?

 

Best wishes,

Anton

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The history is very much lost in the sands of time and my own view is that it is not so much a case of a "Common History" but of one evolving from the other.

 

I do not doubt that Qigong evolved from yoga as Indian yoga adepts crossed the mountains into China passing on their knowledge.

We also have the Bodhidharma teaching the sinew changing exercises to Shaolin monks.

 

It is important to remember that although these practices may have originated in India the Chinese have placed their own stamp upon them and created their own systems and practices that though having common origins differ greatly.

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There are claims going around some yoga schools that 'yoga' (which basically means 'to yoke' or 'union') first originated in Egypt, and not India. The first mentions of yogic exercises, classified under the term Smai Tawi, apparently can be found in the Papyrus of Ani, or commonly referred to as the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Some 10,000 years ago. 

 

Interesting eh?

 

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It is important to realize that both "Yoga" and "qigong" are subjects with complex connections, Yoga as a term that covers several types of disciplines such as Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga, with apologies for spelling, it has been years (decades actually) since I studied about these divisions, whereas Qigong is one of many disciplines that make of a family of "gongs" or "cultivations", such as shengong, neigong, etc.  Qigong is the cultivation of Breath, or the equivalent of Pranayana, which is a foundation Yoga practice mostly associated with Hatha Yoga, but common to all of its higher aspects.

 

Chinese Qigong develops rather early in China and is found as a well developed mystical practice complete with the outlines of an esoteric anatomy and mystical cosmology as early as the Fourth Century BCE in the work the Neiye which influences both the development of Daoism and Confucianism (through Mencious in the late Fourth Century BCE at the very latest).

 

The possible Egyptian origin of Indian yoga would refer to the higher aspects of Indian yoga, which involves "union" or yoga with divine energies through transformations into various Gods, which are taught in the Egyptian coffin texts which make up the "Papyrus of Ani", however these practices developed in Egypt from shamamic trance and spirit possession practices and to think that similar practices did not develop independently of Ancient Egypt is to denigrate the spiritual creativity of human beings around the world.  On the other hand, there are some reasons to believe that Egyptian practices did influence the later developments of practices originating in India, among other things sometime ago I asked myself the question, "Where did all those Lotuses come from?", since there is a large amount of Lotus symbolism in Egyptian, Hindu and Buddhist practices.  When I did a word search for lotus in some early India literature it was relatively rare, but showed up as a common feature of Egyptian practices, with Gods seated on Lotuses, etc., at a very early date.

 

So one needs to be very careful with ones historical speculations and do some real historical research before making broad "cultural dispersion" theories, which are often unfair to different cultures and the spiritual potential and creativity of human beings everywhere.

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I think that if you want a common history you should try alchemy.

It seems to me that qigong and yogasanas are to different practices. With no common source (but here it will be useful to refine the scope and focus on some qigong systems and some yogasanas sytems).

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Just to clarify a few things about Egypt and so on.

 

The Papyrus of Ani is one example (18th Dynasty) of the Book of the Dead which was in use throughout the New Kingdom.  The Coffin texts are Middle Kingdom and earlier - and even earlier are the Pyramid texts - the earliest of these being dated to 2350 BC.  There are Middle Kingdom Tombs 'decorated' with the earlier Pyramid texts and also some of the Chapters of the Book of the Dead are more or less identical to some of the Coffin texts - and so it is fair to assume an unbroken tradition which lasts from at least 3000 BC to the Late Roman era.

 

There is nothing in the Papyrus of Ani or any other Book of the Dead which describes a yoga-like system of exercises.  This term Smai Tawi is most likely the phrase 'union of the two lands' which has its own symbol and meaning.  The idea that it is a yoga-like system seems to come from modern Kemeticism which is a 20 century revival of traditional Egyptian religion founded by a woman who proclaimed herself high priestess.  Make of that what you will.  However - it is true that the Egyptians had the following:

 

- a wrestling style martial art similar perhaps to Judo or Ju Jitsu

- a set of exercises (there is even an illustration of people doing the full lotus which I cannot find to link to right now)

- a set of channels in the body which were used for healing

- use of dreaming for healing and divination

- use of magic for healing etc.

- shamanistic practices particularly related to death/after death states

- understanding of energies (ka, sekhem etc)

 

Yoga itself as a Sanskrit word is often thought to be Vedic in origin but there are reasons to trace its origin back to the Indus Valley Culture.  This most ancient Indian culture was a contemporary of both Mesopotamia and Old Kingdom Egypt.  There is evidence of trade between Indus Valley and Mesopotamia - and between Mesopotamia and Egypt - so its not a stretch to say that with trade goes cultural exchange between the three.

 

It is most likely in my opinion that all these cultures and also the oldest Chinese cultures inherited a vastly older tradition which came from (at least) the Neolithic peoples which today we might call shamanism but in fact was much broader and incorporated all the practices which were later expressed through the 'civilisations' we are talking about.  I can't prove this - but I can't see either how it could be otherwise.  So if you are looking for a connection you might start way back :)

 

 

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14 minutes ago, Apech said:

you might start way back

 

Preferably with a good guide and a Wayback machine:

 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQrYVhjDAM3KqKZbmHD_Fa

 

Apech, thanks for your clarification and discussion of the Egyptian side of things.

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As a meta yogi.. you might find some history from the Jainism religion..

 

Suposedly the Goddess Shiva came about and formed all the yoga asanas in her mind.. and then went out and taught them as doctrine..

 

Which is really good.. I recommend trying asana work in your mind and projecting these forms like a holograph.

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Most of what people call "yoga" today, the postures, etc - are quite modern, and only date from the 1930s.

 

These have been back-associated (by modern practitioners) to the Patanjali (200-300AD) "Yoga Sutras", but this is merely a cultural association, and is not the source of the exercises taught today as "Yoga".

 

 

 

 

-VonKrankenhaus

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6 hours ago, vonkrankenhaus said:

Most of what people call "yoga" today, the postures, etc - are quite modern, and only date from the 1930s.

 

This is false.  India has native dance, acrobatics/gymnastics, and martial arts traditions that have been doing this stuff forever.  That's probably where the first Hatha Yogis got most of their postures from.  What is recent is the promotion of the postures as an intrinsically spiritual form of physical culture appropriate for Hindu householders, and from there of course to spiritually minded Westerners. 

 

On 10/10/2017 at 6:08 AM, ankhmor said:

Good day folks!

 

I tried to look into common history of qigong and yogic asanas (the physical bit of yoga), and so far has had no luck with google.

 

I have just two pieces of information.

-- Qigong seems to have been fairly evolved by 2nd century BC. That's the dating of the silk scrolls depicting qigong practice.

-- Around the same time period, there is the earliest written mention of asanas, albeit without specific examples.

 

That's all I've been able to find.

The google search of a common history keeps leading me to yoga and qigong comparisons, but I'm not interested in that.

I want to learn about their common history, if there is one. Perhaps they have a common ancestor? Perhaps they originated completely separately? Perhaps we know nothing?

 

Best wishes,

Anton

Hey,

 

This is a huge topic, but in short a common history is extremely unlikely, although there was some mutual influence (e.g. Shaolin).  The conception of the subtle body informing their practices is just too different.  The Chinese system is based on the five phases associated to organs and acupuncture meridians and the three treasures of jing, chi, and shen.  The Indian system is based on the left, right, and central channels, and the concept of bindu (inner sun and inner moon).  Certain systems of qigong practice like the eight brocades and five animal frolics, which are unlike any Indian system of movements, just don't make any sense outside of the 5 phases and associated meridians.  Similarly, many yoga postures just look like contortionism until you understand the logic of how sequencing them combining them with breath retention works to bring prana into the central channel and move bindu around.  For some extreme examples that weren't practiced in any non-Indian spiritual system, see mulabandhasana, kandasana, and yoganidrasana.  Even to the extent that similarly intense postures they were practiced in China (e.g. Shaolin) they were used as physical conditioning. 

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19 minutes ago, Creation said:

India has native dance, acrobatics/gymnastics, and martial arts traditions that have been doing this stuff forever.  That's probably where the first Hatha Yogis got most of their postures from.  What is recent is the promotion of the postures as an intrinsically spiritual form of physical culture appropriate for Hindu householders, and from there of course to spiritually minded Westerners. 

 

Actually, the current exercises reference British and Swedish (and Indian) military calisthenics. The "Hatha" yoga included was mostly sourced from Theosophical Society publications. And, yes, some Indian wrestling training exercises.

 

 

 

 

-VonKrankenhaus

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Not much about current Yoga posture exercises in that. The concepts. Practices were not depicted.

 

Kalachakra Tantra also, 11th century, in terms of Hatha.

 

I agree with you - there are other older sources too - but we know this is not where actual current practices really derive from.

 

 

 

 

-VonKrankenhaus

Edited by vonkrankenhaus
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24 minutes ago, vonkrankenhaus said:

 

Actually, the current exercises reference British and Swedish (and Indian) military calisthenics. The "Hatha" yoga included was mostly sourced from Theosophical Society publications. And, yes, some Indian wrestling training exercises.

 

It is interesting and deserves to be more widely known that there were Western systems of spiritual gymnastics, but just because there were British and Swedish systems of exercises with postures identical to modern yoga poses does not mean Indians derived their yoga poses from such.  Really, that's just unfair to native Indian traditions.  The main scholar whose name is associated with this kind of research is Mark Singleton, and a lot of people think he claims that Yoga poses have Western origin, but he actually doesn't.  He merely points out certain historical connections and similarities.  For instance, an Indian Yoga teacher criticized him for seeming to claim this, and he replies at length to give a more nuanced view of his research:

https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2010/09/response-to-yoga-gymnastique.html

 

Much of what is passed off as the history of Yoga posture practice today is completely false, such as the connection between modern posture practice and Patanjali, but completely denying the Indian origin of modern Yoga is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  If you look at the complete teachings of Krishnamacharya, the "Father of Modern Yoga", on bandha, pranayama, and chanting, you would see that he is teaching something very Indian and in line with Medieval Hatha Yoga scriptures, just with the parts he deemed inappropriate for modern householders cut out. 

 

As for the Theosophical Society, they promoted the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, not Hatha Yoga, which was taboo in the period in question.

Edited by Creation
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Not throwing baby.

 

But in fact there are more old Chinese depictions of yoga-like practices than Indian ones - what depictions of Yoga is even as old as Mawangdui, (not to mention the Greeks)?

 

While we know the story about DaMo - from India, bringing these exercises.

 

Modern Yoga people like Krishnamacharya - they had to look outside, maybe Tibet, for old yoga too.

 

It is a very interesting history with much missing evidence.

 

Theosophical society also published a lot more than just Patanjali Sutra about "yoga-like" topics.

 

 

 

 

-VonKrankenhaus

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18 hours ago, vonkrankenhaus said:

Not throwing baby.

 

But in fact there are more old Chinese depictions of yoga-like practices than Indian ones - what depictions of Yoga is even as old as Mawangdui, (not to mention the Greeks)?

What are you talking about? Go read up about Kalari Payyat and Silambam and the yoga postures included in them. The problem with finding “written” records in India is that until recently (less than 1000 years) the transmission was done orally. Another issue is with dating these documents reliably because the entire premise of dating Indian texts is horribly messed up by 18th and 19th century indologists such as Max Mueller. They subscribed to the biblical creation date of ~ 4000 BCE as the start of the universe, which threw all intelligent dating efforts off completely. 

Quote

 

While we know the story about DaMo - from India, bringing these exercises.

 

Modern Yoga people like Krishnamacharya - they had to look outside, maybe Tibet, for old yoga too.

Krishnamacharya has been quoted as having cited HAthayoga Pradipika, Yoga Koruntha, Patanjali’s yoga sutras as his primary source. 

Quote

 

It is a very interesting history with much missing evidence.

 

Theosophical society also published a lot more than just Patanjali Sutra about "yoga-like" topics.

 

 

 

 

-VonKrankenhaus

Theosophical society is a joke. Their texts are a joke. No serious scholar of Yoga would take these as authoritative sources. 

:)

 

There are specific Yoga Upanishads that people don't know about. A few of these are (not in any chronological order) --

 

* Shandilya Upanishad 

* Yogatattva Upanishad

* VarAha Upanishad

* Yogakundalini Upanishad

 

These all contain Hatha Yogic concepts, Asanas, Pranayama, Kundalini, Chakras, etc etc. 

 

Edited by dwai
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coming late to this thread and have not studied all the posts...but any discussion about Yoga would seemingly have to include the Lord of Yoga(s) yogis, and yoginis namely Lord Siva. 

Edited by 3bob
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5 hours ago, dwai said:

Go read up about Kalari Payyat and Silambam and the yoga postures included in them. The problem with finding “written” records in India is that until recently (less than 1000 years) the transmission was done orally.

 

Can you show some of the illustrations?

 

And other illustrations you consider to be showing old "yoga" postures or exercises?

 

(not argue - just discussing)

 

 

 

-VonKrankenhaus

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21 minutes ago, vonkrankenhaus said:

 

Can you show some of the illustrations?

 

And other illustrations you consider to be showing old "yoga" postures or exercises?

 

(not argue - just discussing)

 

 

 

-VonKrankenhaus

:) you mean asana names are not sufficient? 

Read shandilya Upanishad, it has a list of asanas named. Yoga sutras by patanjali has too. The kriya yoga tradition has a bunch.  Not as many as practiced today, but hatha Yoga as it is practiced today was created by Krishnamacharya. 

 

I practiced Tamil siddhar yoga, which is from the siddha tradition (Nath sampradaya). We had 10-15 asanas only. Real stuff was in pranayama and meditation. But the asanas were used nonetheless. 

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