Classic Yoga

The Online Resource of Yoga

Classic Yoga Texts


Classic Yoga texts refer to ancient and medieval texts that impart knowledge on diverse forms of Yoga Philosophy and Practices. The Rig Veda stands as the most ancient spiritual text that exists today. Additionally, the Upanishads, particularly the Yoga Upanishads, provide a comprehensive account of the yoga practices prevalent during that era. Consequently, it becomes challenging to precisely ascertain the age of yoga, as the earliest available records solely indicate its prevalence during those times. In light of this, it can be concluded that yoga is inherently primordial.

The classic yoga texts can be categorized into four distinct groups. To begin with, there are the texts that originated during the Vedic period. Following that, we have the texts from the post-Vedic period. Moving on, there are the yoga texts that emerged during the Medieval Period. Lastly, we have the texts that belong to the modern period.

Now, let’s delve into the intricacies of the four categories.

Classic Yoga Texts of the Vedic Period

The Vedas, ancient spiritual scriptures, have been transmitted orally for countless generations before being recorded in Vedic Sanskrit around 1500 BCE. Originally, only the Samhitha parts of the Vedas existed, which later developed into Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads. The Upanishads added later, contain a hidden doctrine that was orally transmitted from Guru to disciples. It is not possible to attribute all Upanishads to a specific era as they have evolved.

Apart from spiritual doctrines, almost all Upanishads describe one yoga practice or the other. However, Some Upanishads contain yoga doctrines or practices alone as the main subject. They are called the Yoga Upanishads.

Yoga Upanishads

Out of the 108 Upanishads available today, twenty Upanishads are Yoga Upanishads and mainly deal with yoga. They are as below.

  1. Adavaya Taraka Upanishad
  2. Amrita Nada Upanishad
  3. Amrita Bindhu Upanishad
  4. Ksurika Upanishad
  5. Tejo Bindhu Upanishad
  6. Tri Sikhi Brahmana Upanishad
  7. Dharsana Upanishad
  8. Dhyana Bindhu Upanishad
  9. Nada Bindhu Upanishad
  10. Pasupatha Brahmana Upanishad
  11. Brahma Vidya Upanishad
  12. Mandala Brahmana Upanishad
  13. Maha Vakya Upanishad
  14. Yoga Kundalini Upanishad
  15. Yoga Sudamani Upanishad
  16. Yoga Tattva Upanishad
  17. Yoga Sikha Upanishad
  18. Varaka Upanishad
  19. Sandilya Upanishad
  20. Hamsa Upanishad

Classic Yoga Texts of the Post-Vedic Period

The yoga texts that come after the Vedas belong to the post-Vedic period, which lasted until 1000 AD. There are three most important yoga texts of the post-Vedic period.

  1. Bhagavad Gita
  2. Yoga Sutra of Patanjali
  3. Thirumanthiram of Thirumoolar

Bhagavad Gita

The Mahabharata comprises a segment called Bhagavad Gita comprising seven hundred epic verses, in which Lord Krishna imparts profound knowledge to Arjuna on how to lead a life of utmost fulfillment. He imparts teachings on various forms of yoga such as Gyan Vigyana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Dhyana Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga. This text provides a strong basis for the practice of yoga. For those seeking to gain a fundamental comprehension of yoga, reading this text is highly recommended.

Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is another text of comparable significance. Patanjali, an Indian sage from 2500 years ago, authored this profound work. The Yoga Sutra is a compilation of concise and meaningful Yoga Aphorisms, each consisting of a single sentence. It contains four chapters and 196 aphorisms. Several renowned yoga figures such as Maharishi Vyasa, Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Osho have authored interpretations of the Yoga Sutra. This text focuses on Ashtanga Yoga, also known as the Yoga of eight limbs. It is an exceptionally valuable yoga text that holds great significance for anyone aspiring to follow the path of yoga.

Thirumanthiram of Thirumoolar

It is worth noting that Thirumanthiram, a yoga text of significant value, has been overlooked by Western yoga authors. This text was authored by Thirumoolar in Tamil. With nine Tantras and 3000 lyrics, this book is a complete resource for all forms of Yoga. The third Tantra is mostly about Ashtanga Yoga or Yoga of eight limbs. The fourth Tantra explores Tantra Yoga practices, and the fifth Tantra provides detailed information on various types of Yoga. This text is all that is needed for anyone wishing to reach the highest levels of yoga.

Classic Yoga Texts of the Medieval Period

Below, I present the most significant texts among the vast array of medieval yoga texts available today.

  1. Hatha Yoga Pradipika
  2. Gheranda Samhitha
  3. Siva Samhitha
  4. Hatha Ratnavali
  5. Hatha Tatva Kaumudi
  6. Goraksha Paddhati
  7. Matsyendra Samhita
  8. Atma Siddhi
  9. Dattatreya Yoga Sastra
  10. Vasista Samhita
  11. Yoga Yajnavalkya
  12. Jogapradipyaka
  13. Yogasanamala
  14. Yoga Cintamani
  15. Bahr-Al-Hayat
  16. Hatha Abyasa Paddhati
  17. Sri Tatva Nidhi

Classic Yoga Texts of the Modern Period

Modern Yoga Literature is experiencing rapid growth and development. Numerous yoga books have been authored by both Yogis and Modern Yoga teachers. Below, I present a compilation of notable publications in this field.

  • Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda
  • Karma Yoga by Swami Vivekananda
  • Bhakti Yoga by Swami Vivekananda
  • Gyana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda
  • The Serpent Power by Sir John Woodroffe
  • A Search in Secret India by Paul Brunton
  • First Steps to Higher Yoga by Vyas Dev
  • Yoga Makaranta by T Krishnamacharya
  • Yoga Dipika (Light on Yoga) by BKS Iyenkar
  • Pranayama Dipika (Light on Pranayama) by BKS Iyenkar

Bottom Line

These treatises hold significant importance, but numerous other classical works exist to explore. It requires a lifetime of dedication to comprehend the knowledge contained within these books fully. However, not everyone can allocate ample time to study them extensively. Therefore, my endeavor here in this blog is to condense and summarize the crucial concepts and techniques from each treatise, ensuring that the core ideas are not overlooked.

Related Posts

Classic Yoga