One of the best known early expressions of Brahmanical Yoga thought is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali , the original name of which may have been the Pātañjalayogaśāstra-sāṃkhya-pravacana (c. sometime between 325 - 425) which some scholars now believe included both the sutras and a commentary.[129] As the name suggests, the metaphysical basis for this text is the Indian philosophy termed Sāṃkhya. This atheistic school is mentioned in Kauṭilya's Arthashastra as one of the three categories of anviksikis (philosophies) along with Yoga and Cārvāka.[130][131] The two schools have some differences as well. Yoga accepted the conception of "personal god", while Samkhya developed as a rationalist, non-theistic/atheistic system of Hindu philosophy.[132][133][134] Sometimes Patanjali's system is referred to as Seshvara Samkhya in contradistinction to Kapila's Nirivara Samkhya.[135] The parallels between Yoga and Samkhya were so close that Max Müller says that "the two philosophies were in popular parlance distinguished from each other as Samkhya with and Samkhya without a Lord."[136]


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]
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Buddhist yoga encompasses an extensive variety of methods that aim to develop key virtues or qualities known as the 37 aids to awakening. The ultimate goal of Buddhist yoga is bodhi (awakening) or nirvana (cessation), which is traditionally seen as the permanent end of suffering (dukkha) and rebirth.[note 20] Buddhist texts use numerous terms for spiritual praxis besides yoga, such as bhāvanā ("development")[note 21] and jhāna/dhyāna.[note 22]

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]
Yoga is discussed in the ancient foundational Sutras of Hindu philosophy. The Vaiśeṣika Sūtra of the Vaisheshika school of Hinduism, dated to have been composed sometime between 6th and 2nd century BCE discusses Yoga.[note 14] According to Johannes Bronkhorst, an Indologist known for his studies on early Buddhism and Hinduism and a professor at the University of Lausanne, Vaiśeṣika Sūtra describes Yoga as "a state where the mind resides only in the soul and therefore not in the senses".[120] This is equivalent to pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses, and the ancient Sutra asserts that this leads to an absence of sukha (happiness) and dukkha (suffering), then describes additional yogic meditation steps in the journey towards the state of spiritual liberation.[120]
In 1989 and 2003, the Vatican issued two documents: Aspects of Christian meditation and "A Christian reflection on the New Age," that were mostly critical of eastern and New Age practices. The 2003 document was published as a 90-page handbook detailing the Vatican's position.[287] The Vatican warned that concentration on the physical aspects of meditation "can degenerate into a cult of the body" and that equating bodily states with mysticism "could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations." Such has been compared to the early days of Christianity, when the church opposed the gnostics' belief that salvation came not through faith but through a mystical inner knowledge.[281] The letter also says, "one can see if and how [prayer] might be enriched by meditation methods developed in other religions and cultures"[288] but maintains the idea that "there must be some fit between the nature of [other approaches to] prayer and Christian beliefs about ultimate reality."[281] Some[which?] fundamentalist Christian organizations consider yoga to be incompatible with their religious background, considering it a part of the New Age movement inconsistent with Christianity.[289]
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There is no consensus on its chronology or specific origin other than that yoga developed in ancient India. Suggested origins are the Indus Valley Civilization (3300–1900 BCE)[44] and pre-Vedic Eastern states of India,[45] the Vedic period (1500–500 BCE), and the śramaṇa movement.[46] According to Gavin Flood, continuities may exist between those various traditions:
During the period between the Mauryan and the Gupta eras (c. 200 BCE–500 CE) the Indic traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism were taking form and coherent systems of yoga began to emerge.[49] This period witnessed many new texts from these traditions discussing and systematically compiling yoga methods and practices. Some key works of this era include the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, the Yoga-Yājñavalkya, the Yogācārabhūmi-Śāstra and the Visuddhimagga.

According to Pāṇini, the term yoga can be derived from either of two roots, yujir yoga (to yoke) or yuj samādhau ("to concentrate").[26] In the context of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the root yuj samādhau (to concentrate) is considered by traditional commentators as the correct etymology.[27] In accordance with Pāṇini, Vyasa who wrote the first commentary on the Yoga Sutras,[28] states that yoga means samādhi (concentration).[29]
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