The first known appearance of the word "yoga", with the same meaning as the modern term, is in the Katha Upanishad,[10][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:
In the early 11th century, the Persian scholar Al Biruni visited India, lived with Hindus for 16 years, and with their help translated several significant Sanskrit works into Arabic and Persian languages. One of these was Patanjali's Yogasutras.[290][291] Al Biruni's translation preserved many of the core themes of Patañjali 's Yoga philosophy, but certain sutras and analytical commentaries were restated making it more consistent with Islamic monotheistic theology.[290][292] Al Biruni's version of Yoga Sutras reached Persia and Arabian peninsula by about 1050 AD. Later, in the 16th century, the hath yoga text Amritakunda was translated into Arabic and then Persian.[293] Yoga was, however, not accepted by mainstream Sunni and Shia Islam. Minority Islamic sects such as the mystic Sufi movement, particularly in South Asia, adopted Indian yoga practises, including postures and breath control.[294][295] Muhammad Ghawth, a Shattari Sufi and one of the translators of yoga text in 16th century, drew controversy for his interest in yoga and was persecuted for his Sufi beliefs.[296]
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]
The Rigveda, however, does not describe yoga, and there is little evidence as to what the practices were.[7] Early references to practices that later became part of yoga, are made in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the earliest Hindu Upanishad.[67] For example, the practice of pranayama (consciously regulating breath) is mentioned in hymn 1.5.23 of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (c. 900 BCE), and the practice of pratyahara (concentrating all of one's senses on self) is mentioned in hymn 8.15 of Chandogya Upanishad (c. 800–700 BCE).[68][note 8] The Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana teaches mantra repetition and control of the breath.[71]

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]

The meaning of health has evolved over time. In keeping with the biomedical perspective, early definitions of health focused on the theme of the body's ability to function; health was seen as a state of normal function that could be disrupted from time to time by disease. An example of such a definition of health is: "a state characterized by anatomic, physiologic, and psychological integrity; ability to perform personally valued family, work, and community roles; ability to deal with physical, biological, psychological, and social stress".[7] Then in 1948, in a radical departure from previous definitions, the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a definition that aimed higher: linking health to well-being, in terms of "physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity".[8] Although this definition was welcomed by some as being innovative, it was also criticized as being vague, excessively broad and was not construed as measurable. For a long time, it was set aside as an impractical ideal and most discussions of health returned to the practicality of the biomedical model.[9]

Prolonged psychological stress may negatively impact health, and has been cited as a factor in cognitive impairment with aging, depressive illness, and expression of disease.[60] Stress management is the application of methods to either reduce stress or increase tolerance to stress. Relaxation techniques are physical methods used to relieve stress. Psychological methods include cognitive therapy, meditation, and positive thinking, which work by reducing response to stress. Improving relevant skills, such as problem solving and time management skills, reduces uncertainty and builds confidence, which also reduces the reaction to stress-causing situations where those skills are applicable.
These meditations were seen as being supported by the other elements of the eightfold path, such as the practice of ethics, right exertion, sense restraint and right view.[244] Two mental qualities are said to be indispensable for yogic practice in Buddhism, samatha (calm, stability) and vipassanā (insight, clear seeing).[245] Samatha is the quality of a stable, relaxed and calm mind. It is also associated with samadhi (mental unification, focus) and dhyana (a state of meditative absorption). Vipassanā meanwhile, is a kind of insight or penetrative understanding into the true nature of phenomena. It is also defined as "seeing things as they truly are" (yathābhūtaṃ darśanam). The true nature of things is defined and explained in different ways, but an important and unique feature of classical Buddhism is its understanding of all phenomena (dhammas) as being empty of a self (atman) or inherent essence, a doctrine termed Anatta ("not-self") and Śūnyatā (emptiness).[246][247] This is in sharp contrast with most other Indian traditions, whose goals are founded either on the idea of an individual soul (atman, jiva, purusha) or a universal monistic consciousness ( Brahman). Vipassanā also requires an understanding of suffering or dukkha (and thus the four noble truths), impermanence (anicca) and interdependent origination.