The exact origins of traditional yoga are unknown and a matter of debate. Unfortunately, the texts which could give us the answers have been lost to time. However, most scholars agree that it was first developed during the Pre-Vedic and Vedic period of India (1700–500 BCE).
In the Preclassical Era (500–200 BCE), yoga began to be linked with the philosophies of Hinduism. This period is where we get the earliest surviving texts on the subject. These explain the different concepts which still form a basis for yoga to this day.
It is believed that the actual word yoga first appeared between the 5th and 3rd century BCE. It was defined as reaching a supreme state by controlling the senses and ceasing mental activity. This era is also where the breathing techniques and body positions of modern yoga come from.
The emergence of Buddhism also had an impact on yoga. A new form of Buddhist meditation eventually gained its own prominence. However, the exact chronology of this type of yoga is uncertain. What is known is, that during the Classical era (200 BCE to 500 CE), schools were opened which taught concise systems of yoga. These schools mixed physical meditation with philosophical concepts.
During the Middle Ages (500–1500 CE) yoga evolved even further as it spread across the world. Different cultures created their own unique genres of yoga. These include Tantra, Zen and Hatha yoga. Some of the most common traditions of yoga came from this period.
It was not until the 19th century that yoga was given serious attention by the western world. During the 1890s, a vital tour showcasing the aspects of yoga travelled throughout Europe and America. In the 1960s, western yoga began to focus less on the religious elements and more on the postures themselves. This form of yoga is still prevalent in the west today.