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Yoga Upanishads are a group of minor Upanishads of Hinduism related to Yoga. There are twenty Yoga Upanishads in the anthology of 108 Upanishads listed in the Muktika anthology. The Yoga Upanishads, along with other minor Upanishads, are generally classified separate from the thirteen major Principal Upanishads considered to be more ancient and from the Vedic tradition.
The Yoga Upanishads deal with the theory and practice of Yogic techniques, with varied emphasis on methodology and meditation, but with some shared ideas. They contrast from other groups of minor Upanishads, such as the Samanya Upanishads which are of a generic nature, the Sannyasa Upanishads which focus on the Hindu renunciation and monastic practice, the Shaiva Upanishads which highlight aspects of Shaivism, the Vaishnava Upanishads which highlight Vaishnavism, and the Shakta Upanishads which highlight Shaktism.
The composition date of each Yoga Upanishad is unclear, and estimates on when they were composed vary with scholar. According to Mahony, they are likely dated between 100 BC and 1100 AD. However, Gavin Flood dates the Yoga Upanishads to the 100 BCE to 300 CE period. According to James Mallinson, some Yoga Upanishads were revised in the eighteenth century to incorporate the Hatha Yoga ideas of the Hindu Natha sub-tradition.
Mircea Eliade states that textual style, archaic language and the mention of some Yoga Upanishads in other Indian texts, suggests the following Yoga Upanishads were likely composed in the same period as the didactic parts of the Mahabharata and the chief Sannyasa Upanishads: Brahmabindu (probably composed about the same time as Maitri Upanishad), Ksurika, Amritabindu, Brahmavidya, Tejobindu Upanishad, Nadabindu, Yogashikha, Dhyanabindu and Yogatattva. Eliade's suggestion places these in the final centuries of BCE or early centuries of the CE. All these, adds Eliade, were likely composed earlier than the ten or eleven later Yoga Upanishads such as the Yoga-kundalini, Varaha and Pashupatabrahma Upanishads.
Yoga Upanishads discuss different aspects and kinds of Yoga, ranging from postures, breath exercises, meditation (dhyana), sound (nada), tantra (kundalini anatomy) and others. Some of these topics are not covered in the Bhagavad Gita or Patanjali's Yogasutras.
Many texts describe Yoga as consisting of steps or members (angas) and according to Paul Deussen, the important Yoga Upanishads which deal with these are the Brahmavidya, Kshurika, Culika (listed under the Samanya Upanishads), Nadabindu, Brahmabindu, Amritabindu, Dhyanabindu, Tejobindu, Yogashika, Yogatattva, and Hamsa. These 11 Yoga Upanishads belong to Vedic shaka (school) from the Vedantic point of view. These Upanishads include discussion of ethics (yama (self restraints such as non-violence) and niyama (self effort such as study)), asana (physical exercises and body posture), pranayama (breath exercises), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration of the mind), dhyana (contemplation and meditation) and samadhi (a state of meditative consciousness).
List of 20 Yoga Upanishads
|Title||Muktika serial #||Attached Veda||Period of creation|
|Hamsa Upanishad||15||Shukla Yajurveda|
|Amritabindu Upanishad||20||Atharvaveda||Final centuries of BCE or early centuries of the CE.|
|Nadabindu Upanishad or Amrita Nada Bindu Upanishad||21||Rigveda or Atharvaveda||100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Kshurika Upanishad||31||Atharvaveda also Krishna Yajurveda||100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Tejobindu Upanishad||37||Atharvaveda||100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Nadabindu Upanishad||38||Atharvaveda or Rigveda||100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Dhyanabindu Upanishad||39||Atharvaveda and Samaveda||100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Brahmavidya Upanishad||40||Atharvaveda and Krishna Yajurveda||100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Yogatattva Upanishad||41||Atharvaveda||100 BCE to 300 CE or about 150 CE or 11th- to 13th-century|
|Trishikhibrahmana Upanishad||44||Shukla Yajurveda||Early 1st-millennium CE|
|Yogachudamani Upanishad||46||Samaveda||14th- to 15th-century CE|
|Mandala-brahmana Upanishad||48||Shukla Yajurveda||Early 1st-millennium CE|
|Advayataraka Upanishad||53||Shukla Yajurveda||100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Shandilya Upanishad||58||Atharvaveda||100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Yogashikha Upanishad||63||Krishna Yajurveda||100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Pashupatabrahma Upanishad||77||Atharvaveda||Later era|
|Yoga-kundalini Upanishad||86||Krishna Yajurveda||Common era text, composed sometime after Yogasutras|
|Darshana Upanishad||90||Samaveda||Around 100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Mahavakya Upanishad||92||Atharvaveda||Around 100 BCE to 300 CE|
|Varaha Upanishad||98||Krishna Yajurveda||Middle of the 2nd millennium CE|
- Deussen 1997, p. 556.
- Ayyengar, T. R. Shrinivasa (1938). "The Yoga Upanisads". The Adyar Library. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
- Mahony 1998, p. 271.
- William K. Mahony (1998). The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination. State University of New York Press. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-7914-3579-3.
- Moriz Winternitz; V. Srinivasa Sarma (1996). A History of Indian Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 217–224 with footnotes. ISBN 978-81-208-0264-3.
- Mahony 1998, p. 290.
- Flood 1996, p. 96.
- Mallinson 2004, p. 14.
- Mircea Eliade (1970), Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691017646, pages 128–129
- Derek 1989, p. 196-197.
- Deussen 2010, p. 385-86.
- Sen 1937, p. 25.
- Derek, Coltman (1989). Yoga and the Hindu Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-0543-9.
- Deussen, Paul (1997). Sixty Upanishads of the Veda. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-1467-7.
- Deussen, Paul (2010). The Philosophy of the Upanishads. Cosimo, Inc. ISBN 978-1-61640-239-6.
- Flood, Gavin D. (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521438780
- Mahony, William K. (1998). The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination. State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-3579-3.
- Mallinson, James (2004). The Gheranda Samhita: The Original Sanskrit and an English Translation. YogaVidya.com. ISBN 978-0-9716466-3-6.
- Sen, S.C. (1937). The Mystical Philosophy Of The Upanishads. Cosmo Publications. ISBN 978-81-307-0660-3.