Tantra is a range of esoteric traditions that began to arise in India no later than the 5th century CE.[181][note 17] George Samuel states, "Tantra" is a contested term, but may be considered as a school whose practices appeared in mostly complete form in Buddhist and Hindu texts by about 10th century CE.[183] Tantric yoga developed complex visualizations which included meditation on the body as a microcosm of the cosmos. They included also the use of mantras, pranayama, and the manipulation of the subtle body, including its nadis and cakras. These teachings on cakras and Kundalini would become central to later forms of Indian Yoga.[184]
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The chronology of completion of these yoga-related Early Buddhist Texts, however, is unclear, just like ancient Hindu texts.[85][86] Early known Buddhist sources like the Majjhima Nikāya mention meditation, while the Anguttara Nikāya describes Jhāyins (meditators) that resemble early Hindu descriptions of Muni, Kesins and meditating ascetics,[87] but these meditation-practices are not called yoga in these texts.[88] The earliest known specific discussion of yoga in the Buddhist literature, as understood in modern context are from the later Buddhist Yogācāra and Theravada schools.[88]
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Description of an early form of yoga called nirodhayoga (yoga of cessation) is contained in the Mokshadharma section of the 12th chapter (Shanti Parva) of the Mahabharata (third century BCE).[109] Nirodhayoga emphasizes progressive withdrawal from the contents of empirical consciousness such as thoughts, sensations etc. until purusha (Self) is realized. Terms like vichara (subtle reflection), viveka (discrimination) and others which are similar to Patanjali's terminology are mentioned, but not described.[110] There is no uniform goal of yoga mentioned in the Mahabharata. Separation of self from matter, perceiving Brahman everywhere, entering into Brahman etc. are all described as goals of yoga. Samkhya and yoga are conflated together and some verses describe them as being identical.[111] Mokshadharma also describes an early practice of elemental meditation.[112] Mahabharata defines the purpose of yoga as the experience of uniting the individual ātman with the universal Brahman that pervades all things.[111]
According to Crangle, some researchers have favoured a linear theory, which attempts "to interpret the origin and early development of Indian contemplative practices as a sequential growth from an Aryan genesis",[53][note 4] just like traditional Hinduism regards the Vedas to be the ultimate source of all spiritual knowledge.[55][note 5] Thomas McEvilley favors a composite model where pre-Aryan yoga prototype existed in the pre-Vedic period and its refinement began in the Vedic period.[58]
The Yoga Yajnavalkya is a classical treatise on yoga attributed to the Vedic sage Yajnavalkya. It takes the form of a dialogue between Yajnavalkya and Gargi, a renowned philosopher.[162] The text contains 12 chapters and its origin has been traced to the period between the second century BCE and fourth century CE.[163] Many yoga texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Yoga Kundalini and the Yoga Tattva Upanishads have borrowed verses from or make frequent references to the Yoga Yajnavalkya.[164] The Yoga Yajnavalkya discusses eight yoga Asanas – Swastika, Gomukha, Padma, Vira, Simha, Bhadra, Mukta and Mayura,[165] numerous breathing exercises for body cleansing,[166] and meditation.[167]

^ James Mallinson, "Sāktism and Hathayoga," 28 June 2012. Archived 16 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine [accessed 19 September 2013] pgs. 2 "The earliest references to hathayoga are scattered mentions in Buddhist canonical works and their exegesis dating from the eighth century onwards, in which it is the soteriological method of last resort."

The earliest references to hatha yoga are in Buddhist works dating from the eighth century.[200] The earliest definition of hatha yoga is found in the 11th century Buddhist text Vimalaprabha, which defines it in relation to the center channel, bindu etc.[201] Hatha yoga synthesizes elements of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras with posture and breathing exercises.[202] It marks the development of asanas (plural) into the full body 'postures' now in popular usage[186] and, along with its many modern variations, is the style that many people associate with the word yoga today.[203]


The earliest references to hatha yoga are in Buddhist works dating from the eighth century.[200] The earliest definition of hatha yoga is found in the 11th century Buddhist text Vimalaprabha, which defines it in relation to the center channel, bindu etc.[201] Hatha yoga synthesizes elements of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras with posture and breathing exercises.[202] It marks the development of asanas (plural) into the full body 'postures' now in popular usage[186] and, along with its many modern variations, is the style that many people associate with the word yoga today.[203]

What is often referred to as Classical Yoga or Astanga Yoga (Yoga of eight limbs) is mainly the type of Yoga outlined in the highly influential Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[237] The origins of the Classical Yoga tradition are unclear, though early discussions of the term appear in the Upanishads.[238] The name "Rāja yoga" (yoga of kings) originally denoted the ultimate goal of yoga, samadhi,[239] but was popularised by Vivekananda as a common name for Ashtanga Yoga,[note 19] the eight limbs to be practised to attain samadhi, as described in the Yoga Sutras.[240][237] Yoga is also considered as one of the orthodox philosophical schools (darsanas) of Hinduism (those which accept the Vedas as source of knowledge).[241][242]
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