Yoga has been accepted as a way of life by so many people around the world irrespective of the religion and country. There is world wide promotion for Yoga and June 21 is going to be celebrate as International Yoga day.

As wikipedia says,

Yoga (/ˈjoʊɡə/; Sanskrit: योग, Listen) is an Indian physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline.The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root “Yuj” which means “to join.”Yoga is Chitta-vritti-nirodhah, restraint of the mind-stuff or the psychological apparatus inside, generally known as the mind. The different ways of controlling the mind or restraining the Chitta constitute the whole procedure of Yoga.

There are many religious aspects and sects in yoga but the the famous one Ashtanga Yoga was introduced by Yogacharya (teacher) Patañjali in India.

The yogis in India has been following the practice thousands of years ago as a part of their spiritual tradition. As a part of their religion both buddhist and Jains was also familiar with their style of meditation and yoga. When comparing the practice of Yoga with eastern countries, the west just started the practice (as a widely accepted exercise or as a spiritual practice)recently.

So my question is, who carried the major role in introducing the Yoga to the west? When did people in these countries started to follow Yoga as a major practice in their daily life? Is there any references for the same in past 100 or 200 years?


4 Answers 4


Modern Yoga as it is known in the West gained traction in the late 1890s, when Indian monks began transmitting their knowledge to the Western world. Specifically, the influential Swami Vivekananda is often credited with introducing Yoga to the West.

Yoga was introduced into the West by an Indian sage called Swami Vivekanada, who demonstrated Yoga postures at a World Fair in Chicago in the 1890s. This generated much interest and laid the grounds for the welcoming of many other Yogis and Swamis from India in the years that followed.

> - Belling, Noa. The Yoga Handbook. New Holland Publishers, 2008.

Specifically, he made a major impression of Yoga on at the first Parliament of the World's Religions, which was held at Chicago in 1893. This event was scheduled to take advantage of the unprecedented popularity of the World's Columbian Exposition, an world fair held at the same time in Chicago. That worked to the Swami's advantage in terms of promoting Yoga.

[T]he subsequent interest in Yoga in the Western world was created by Swami Vivekananda who was not only the first ever Indian monk to have visited the Western world but also translated Yogic texts from Sanskrit into English language. During his visit to the USA (Chicago) in 1893, he created a lasting impression of Yogic philosophies (Raja Yoga) in the mind of Western audience and also founded Yoga centres for training.

- Pradhan, Basant. Yoga and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy: A Clinical Guide. Springer, 2014.

Vivekananda laid the groundworks for Yoga in the West, but piqued academic curiosity more so than general interest. It took until the mid 20th century for Yoga to become generally popular, accompanied by rising general interest in Eastern cultures.

1950s and 1960s: Though still regarded as a somewhat marginal and eccentric pursuit, the practice of Modern Yoga achieves widespread popularity.

- Singleton, Mark, and Jean Byrne, eds. Yoga in the Modern World: Contemporary Perspectives. Routledge, 2008.


Bhakti yoga, which forms the core spiritual practice of yoga traditions was brought to the west for the first time in known history by HDG AC BhaktiVedanta Swami Prabhupada. He founded the Hare Krishna Movement in New York city in 1965 and established 108 temples + farm communities all over the world.


krishnamacharya is considered the father of modern yoga in the west. He was the teacher to bks iyengar, pattabhi jois, tkv desikachar, and indra devi. These four students came to the west to teach. Most of hatha yoga, the physical form of yoga that has become the main adopted western form of yoga, owes its lineage to krishnamacharya.

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    Are there any citations for those who want to learn more?
    – MCW
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 22:17
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    Books...light on yoga by iyengar, the heart of yoga by desikachar. Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 22:23
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    krishnamacharya.net Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 22:24

Although Swami Vivekananda is often credited with bringing the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali to the West, it was Henry Thomas Colebrooke in 1837 before Swami Vivekananda was even born.

Essays on the religion and philosophy of the Hindus


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