CO Yoga in The Upaniṣad – Balinese Yoga

Yoga in The Upaniṣad

7th c. BCE – 1st c. CE

The first documented ideas about yoga in literature

Since the Upaniṣads have been written over centuries, the discourses presented are also developing. Scholars also argue that within a single Upaniṣad, sometimes can be found ideas that were added much later.

The earliest definition of yoga is written in the Katha Upaniṣad, where yoga is defined as “the control of the senses.”

There are references to pratyāhāra and prāṇāyāma in The Chāndogya Upaniṣad, as well as a series of channels of the heart (hṛdaya-nāḍī) in which contemplative processes take place. Then The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad describes a meditation yoga (dhyānayoga) that leads to the understanding of the nature of divinity (deva), the self (ātman), and power (śakti).

And then the first systematized form of yoga, known as The Yoga of Six Limbs, later became popular within The Tantric Tradition, is described in the Maitrī Upaniṣad, a principal Upaniṣad from the late 1st millennium BCE.

The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad

(7th - 6th century BCE)

discussed briefly syllable OṂ and then became a primary focus of discussion throughout the Upaniṣad.

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad

(7th - 6th century BCE)

References to practices of pratyāhāra and prāṇāyāma. First mentioned a series of channels of the heart (hṛdaya-nāḍī) in which contemplative processes take place.

The Taittirīya Upaniṣad

(6th - 5th century BCE)

The term “yoga” was used in a technical sense for the first time. The idea of multiple bodies or selves (ātman), later termed “sheaths” (kośa), made up or arising out of food (annamaya), breath (prāṇamaya), mind (manomaya), knowledge (vijñānamaya), and bliss (ānandamaya).

The Kaṭha Upaniṣad

(6th - 5th century BCE)

Yoga appears as a formal spiritual discipline; “yoga of the inner self” (adhyātmayoga), and as a technique for the fixation of the senses (indriyadhāraṇā).

The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad

(5th century BCE)

describes a meditation yoga (dhyānayoga) that leads to understanding of the nature of divinity (deva), the Self (ātman), and power (śakti).

The Maitrī Upaniṣad

(Late 1st millennium BCE)

Introduces a concept of five forms of prāṇa, and utilizing it through meditative practices. The systematized yoga process called the yoga of six-limbed (ṣaḍaṅgayoga) taught for the first time.


Knut A. Jacobsen, “Introduction: Yoga Traditions.” Theory and Practice of Yoga: Essays in Honor of Gerlad James Larson. Ed. By Knut A. Jacobsen. (Brill, 2005).
Kengo Harimoto. “How yoga became yoga: Yoga and meditation up to the classical period.” Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies. Edited By Suzanne Newcombe, Karen O’Brien-Kop. (Routledge, 2020).
Dermot Killingley. “The Upaniṣads and Yoga.” The Upaniṣads. Ed. by Signe Cohen. (Routledge, 2017)

Help us build a sanctuary of wisdom derived from Balinese Tantric and Yogic Literature!