Upanishadic wisdom converged on a shared belief in a universal law that guided the abiding presence of religious and metaphysical forces in the lives of individuals and of the collective destiny of all things in the universe. The Upanishadic teachings help us to understand how yoga evolved.
Patanjali is historically understood to have been a divine messenger, born some time between 500 BC and 200 BC. The dates are uncertain to this day as the lives of the great sages and mystics were not measured according to modern calendars, but rather, were imbued by the living oral traditions that defined Upanishadic wisdom and knowledge. Some traditions held that Pantanjali was not born of mother and father but was rather the incarnation of the god Adiesea. Adisesa is a great king cobra whose body is the seal of the god Vishnu. The legend continues that the god Shiva, the king of dance, invited Vishnu and other deities to see his famous dance, Tandava Nritya. As Shiva danced, Vishnu immersed his own consciousness in the moment. His physical being undulated in rhythm with the graceful movements of Shiva. During the performance of the dance, Vishnu was seated on Adisesa, the great cobra. The cobra became short of breath under Vishnu’s weight, which seemed to increase with his enrapturement in the dance. The great cobra began to gasp for air. At the end of the dance, Adesisa immediately felt release from the heavy pressure of Vishnu’s body. Adesisa asked Vishnu, “How could it be