There are many authoritative sources that deal with the ancient art and science of Yoga, such as Yoga Vasistha, Yoga Upanishads, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Shiva Sutras, Vijnana Bhairava, Shiva Samhita, etc. In this article we are going to present, in our opinion, the three most important texts of Yoga.
Just to make things clear, when we say Yoga, we don't mean just Hatha Yoga (as a system of physical body postures described by Yogi Swatmarama, a sage who lived in 15th century India). Instead we include which Yoga really is - the entire system of working on one's own being that ultimately leads to self-realization.
Bhagavad gita is a 700-verse scripture which contains the conversation between Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and prince Arjuna, who was Krishna's disciple. These verses can be understood as a one-of-a-kind guide into self-realization. Bhagavad-gita speaks of the nature of the self, the universe, and the Supreme. Bhagavad gita is a part of the epic Hindu manuscript - Mahabharata.
If we compared the Upanishads to something from the Western spiritual teachings, they would be esoteric texts that interpret the sacred Vedic thought. Historically, the first Upanishads were associated with the Vedas. For example, Atareya and Kausitaki Upanishads were associated with Rig Veda, and so on. There are 14 main Upanishads, which together make the foundation of the Indian doctrine of salvation.
However, there are many more minor Upanishads (more than 200), and the Yoga Upanishads belong to them. The Yoga Upanishads are 11 in total and describe our dealing with the energy channels - nadis and energy centers - chakras, as well as performing mantra meditations, physical postures - asanas and control of vital energy - pranayamas.
There are 196 sutras, that is, aphorisms, divided into 4 parts. Part one talks about contemplation. Part two is about spiritual disciplines. Part Three of the sutras is focused on divine powers, while the final part deals with the most important goal of every human life - self-realization.
Today, the Yoga Sutras are by some considered to be the most important text of Yoga. However, it seems that Patanjali used the existing texts about Yoga eliminating any particular religious belief from them to compile his Yoga Sutras. Therefore the sutras are oriented more toward the practice of Yoga.
Via the Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, we have, in essence, obtained a practice of expanding our consciousness which is universal and relatively easy to follow.
Here we presented three Yoga sources that we believe every serious Yoga student cannot do without. Do you think we have missed an important Yoga text? If you do, please let us know in the comments below.