The first known appearance of the word "yoga", with the same meaning as the modern term, is in the Katha Upanishad,[9][95] probably composed between the fifth and third century BCE,[96][97] where it is defined as the steady control of the senses, which along with cessation of mental activity, leading to a supreme state.[67][note 13] Katha Upanishad integrates the monism of early Upanishads with concepts of samkhya and yoga. It defines various levels of existence according to their proximity to the innermost being Ātman. Yoga is therefore seen as a process of interiorization or ascent of consciousness.[99][100] It is the earliest literary work that highlights the fundamentals of yoga. White states:
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 Sutras are also influenced by the Sramana traditions of Buddhism and Jainism, and may represent a further Brahmanical attempt to adopt yoga from the Sramana traditions.[129] As noted by Larson, there are numerous parallels in the concepts in ancient Samkhya, Yoga and Abhidharma Buddhist schools of thought, particularly from 2nd century BCE to 1st century AD.[139] Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is a synthesis of these three traditions. From Samkhya, the Yoga Sutras adopt the "reflective discernment" (adhyavasaya) of prakrti and purusa (dualism), its metaphysical rationalism, as well its three epistemic methods of gaining reliable knowledge.[139] From Abhidharma Buddhism's idea of nirodhasamadhi, suggests Larson, Yoga Sutras adopt the pursuit of altered state of awareness, but unlike Buddhism's concept of no self nor soul, Yoga is physicalist and realist like Samkhya in believing that each individual has a self and soul.[139] The third concept Yoga Sutras synthesize into its philosophy is the ancient ascetic traditions of meditation and introspection, as well as the yoga ideas from middle Upanishads such as Katha, Shvetashvatara and Maitri.[139]
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Later developments in the various Buddhist traditions led to new innovations in yogic practices. The Theravada school, while remaining relatively conservative, still developed new ideas on meditation and yogic phenomenology in their later works, the most influential of which is the Visuddhimagga. The Indic meditation teachings of Mahayana Buddhism can be seen in influential texts like the Yogācārabhūmi-Śāstra (compiled c. 4th century). Mahayana meditation practices also developed and adopted new yogic methods, such as the use of mantra and dharani, pure land practices which aimed at rebirth in a pure land or buddhafield, and visualization methods. Chinese Buddhism developed its own methods, such as the Chan practice of Koan introspection and Hua Tou. Likewise, Tantric Buddhism (also Mantrayana, Vajrayana) developed and adopted tantric methods, which remain the basis of the Tibetan Buddhist yogic systems, including the Six yogas of Naropa, Kalacakra, Mahamudra and Dzogchen.[251]
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Ascetic practices (tapas), concentration and bodily postures used by Vedic priests to conduct yajna (sacrifice), might have been precursors to yoga.[note 9] Vratya, a group of ascetics mentioned in the Atharvaveda, emphasized on bodily postures which may have evolved into yogic asanas.[59] Early Samhitas also contain references to other group ascetics such as munis, the keśin, and vratyas.[67] Techniques for controlling breath and vital energies are mentioned in the Brahmanas (texts of the Vedic corpus, c. 1000–800 BCE) and the Atharvaveda.[59][72] Nasadiya Sukta of the Rig Veda suggests the presence of an early contemplative tradition.[note 10]

An influential text which teaches yoga from an Advaita perspective of nondualistic idealism is the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha.[263] This work uses numerous short stories and anecdotes to illustrate its main ideas. It teaches seven stages or bhumis of yogic practice. It was a major reference for medieval Advaita Vedanta yoga scholars and before the 12th century, it was one of the most popular texts on Hindu yoga.[264]
According to Tattvarthasutra, 2nd century CE Jain text, yoga is the sum of all the activities of mind, speech and body.[6] Umasvati calls yoga the cause of "asrava" or karmic influx[172] as well as one of the essentials—samyak caritra—in the path to liberation.[172] In his Niyamasara, Acarya Kundakunda, describes yoga bhakti—devotion to the path to liberation—as the highest form of devotion.[173] Acarya Haribhadra and Acarya Hemacandra mention the five major vows of ascetics and 12 minor vows of laity under yoga. This has led certain Indologists like Prof. Robert J. Zydenbos to call Jainism, essentially, a system of yogic thinking that grew into a full-fledged religion.[174] The five yamas or the constraints of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali bear a resemblance to the five major vows of Jainism, indicating a history of strong cross-fertilization between these traditions.[174][note 16]
The origins of yoga have been speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions; it is mentioned in the Rigveda,[note 1] but most likely developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, in ancient India's ascetic and śramaṇa movements.[8][note 2] The chronology of earliest texts describing yoga-practices is unclear, varyingly credited to Upanishads.[9] The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date from the first half of the 1st millennium CE,[10][11] but only gained prominence in the West in the 20th century.[12] Hatha yoga texts emerged sometimes between the 9th and 11th century with origins in tantra.[13][14]