David Gordon White

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

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The Sanskrit term yoga is first encountered in the Vedas, where it refers to the act of yoking, the animal so yoked, and the conveyance pulled by the yoked animal. The Vedic poets also applied the term to the yoking of their minds to poetic inspiration, by which their thoughts could journey outward to the distant worlds of the gods. This led to the techniques of meditative ascent found in the classical Upaniṣads (600 bce–200 ce). Because they linked the mind to the breath, the Upaniṣads also introduced breath control as a component of meditative practice. The Vaiśeṣika Sūtra and Nyāya Sūtra (200 bce–200 ce) classified the level of perception proper to the Vedic poets and seers as the most powerful and valid source of knowledge, because it entailed the perception of imperceptibles. This came to be known as “yogi perception.” These traditions coalesced in the time of the Bhagavad Gītā (200 ce), an early teaching on “yoga” by the god Krishna. The most important philosophical synthesis of all of these earlier traditions was the Yoga Sūtras (350–450 ce) of Patañjali. It and its rich commentarial tradition, which continues down to the present day, are the core of Yoga philosophy. About 450–600 ce, yogic postures (āsanas) first appear in texts and iconography. These became the principal focus of works on haṭha yoga that appeared between 1100 and 1700 ce. From the same period, the Yoga Upaniṣads wove together the philosophical and meditative traditions of the Yoga Sūtras with āsana practice. Prior to both haṭha yoga and the Yoga Upaniṣads, the Hindu Tantras innovated yoga systems of their own, combining meditative ascent, visualization techniques, the manipulation of mantras, and breath control. Both tantric and the hathayogic works contain accounts of the centers (cakras) and channels (nāḍīs) of the yogic body, portraying it as a replica of the universe. Dating from the same period as the earliest Yoga Upaniṣads and the middle Tantras, the Kashmirian Yogavasiṣṭha (800–1000 ce) combined yoga philosophy, “yogi perception,” tantric yoga, and haṭha yoga into a unique synthesis. Since the late 19th century, “modern yoga” has retrieved and reinvented many of the elements of these earlier systems, relying heavily on the Yoga Sūtras in formulating its theoretical principals, but also appropriating elements from tantric and hathayogic traditions into constantly evolving novel forms.

Article.  9013 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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