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History Of Yoga In The Upanishads

History Of Yoga In The Upanishads

Yoga is one of the most ancient forms of mystic and human development practice which has originated in India. This practice had been found to be of great reverence in form of a holistic pattern of moral, mental and physical development. Ancient Hindu texts of Yoga called the HathaYogaPradipka, asserts that Lord Shiva as the first teacher of Yoga while the Bhagavad Gita, another sacred text of Hindus, asserts Lord Krishna as a teacher of Yoga. Yoga has been handed down from ancient times in India since the time of Vedas. A great sage Maharishi Patanjali systemized all Yoga practices with the advent of their Yoga sutras. Many sages have contributed greatly to the development of this field using their knowledge, into practices and treatises.

Study of this ancient technique can be divided into three main categories;

  • Pre-Patanjali Period (before 500bc)
  • Patanjali Period (500bc to 800ac)
  • Post-Patanjali Period(after 800ac)

Pre-Patanjali period before 500 BC provides source of few Yoga scriptures up to 4500 BC. The main sources of Yoga at this time are given as Vedas, Upanishads, Buddhism, Jainism, Panini, Epics and Puranas. Study Yoga in India as in the Upanishads has a different meaning from the other scriptures of pre-Patanjaliperiod. The Upanishads are secret teaching or esoteric doctrine, which is a strong proponent of the spiritual philosophy of the Vedas. The Upanishads are of the following categories associated with three Vedas; Rig, Sama and Yajur.

Associated Upanishads to Rig Veda are Aitareya and Kausitaki Upanishads.
Sama Veda is associated with Chandogya and Kena Upanishads.
Yajur Veda (black) is associated with Taittiriya, Mahanarayana, Katha, Svetasvatara and Maitri Upanishad.
Yajur Veda (white) is associated with Bhradaranyaka and Isha Upanishad.
Added to this list are Prasna, Mundaka and Mandukya Upanishad.

This list of the major Upanishads provides a clear glimpse of the Yoga treatise and summaries from the Upanishads provide the necessary guidelines in study Yoga in India. There are further smaller treatises totaling more than 200 in number which are minor Upanishads. Atharva Veda also provides guidance to further Yoga study within which thirty nineUpanishads have been found. All these Upanishads are based on the Yoga sutra itself. Yoga sutra itself presents Vitarka which is reflection, contemplative inquiry, logic and reasoning as well as comprehensive perception. This Yoga system is mature and is as old as Vedas itself, Upanishads provide a reasonable inquiry into Yoga beliefs, customs, practices as well as meditation. Upon careful examination, one would come to recognize profound psychic and psycho-cosmological inquiry underlying these Vedic hymns. A great insight is a fact that Yogais a heritage of and practical significance in the day to day lives of Hindus by being a medium of instruction, religion, gospel and spiritual path to salvation.


Srinivasa Ayyangar T R, The Yoga Upanishads, Vasanta Press, Madras, 1938.

Gopi K, Kundalini – The Secret of Yoga,FIND research trust and Kundalini foundation, Canada,1990.

This article is from a collection of articles written by faculty / teachers / community of Ajarya Yoga Academy. You may visit www.ajarya.com to read more such articles


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