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Yoga (/ˈjoʊɡə/;[1] Sanskrit: योग; pronunciation) is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions.[2] There is a broad variety of yoga schools, practices, and goals[3] in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.[4][5][6] The term "yoga" in the Western world often denotes a modern form of Hatha yoga, consisting largely of the postures called asanas.
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.[234] The origins of the Classical Yoga tradition are unclear, though early discussions of the term appear in the Upanishads.[235] The name "Rāja yoga" (yoga of kings) originally denoted the ultimate goal of yoga, samadhi,[236] 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.[237][234] Yoga is also considered as one of the orthodox philosophical schools (darsanas) of Hinduism (those which accept the Vedas as source of knowledge).[238][239]
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,[8] in ancient India's ascetic and śramaṇa movements.[9][note 2] The chronology of earliest texts describing yoga-practices is unclear, varyingly credited to Upanishads.[10] The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date from the first half of the 1st millennium CE,[11][12] but only gained prominence in the West in the 20th century.[13] Hatha yoga texts emerged around the 11th century with origins in tantra.[14][15]

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.[248]

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[171] as well as one of the essentials—samyak caritra—in the path to liberation.[171] In his Niyamasara, Acarya Kundakunda, describes yoga bhakti—devotion to the path to liberation—as the highest form of devotion.[172] 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.[173] 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.[173][note 16]
Śaradatilaka of Lakshmanadesikendra, a Shakta Tantra work 11th century CE "Yogic experts state that yoga is the oneness of the individual soul (jiva) with the atman. Others understand it to be the ascertainment of Siva and the soul as non-different. The scholars of the Agamas say that it is a Knowledge which is of the nature of Siva’s Power. Other scholars say it is the knowledge of the primordial soul." (SaTil 25.1–3b)[35]

Samuel states that Tantrism is a contested concept.[182] Tantra yoga may be described, according to Samuel, as practices in 9th to 10th century Buddhist and Hindu (Saiva, Shakti) texts, which included yogic practices with elaborate deity visualizations using geometrical arrays and drawings (mandala), fierce male and particularly female deities, transgressive life stage related rituals, extensive use of chakras and mantras, and sexual techniques, all aimed to help one's health, long life and liberation.[182][265]

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]