How Vedic is Yoga?

"The origins of yoga are hard to pin down. Most of the available evidence comes from texts, which put into writing an oral tradition that started much earlier..."

— Daniel Simpson, The Truth of Yoga (2021)

We don't know how much we don't know about yoga history. Regardless, a few things seem clear. The earliest texts don't teach yogic techniques, and they also have different objectives to yogic traditions. So although Vedic culture has influenced yoga in all sorts of ways, the discipline probably started elsewhere with renunciate ascetics.

This accessible talk explores what people mean when they call yoga Vedic – both in the sense of a broad group of texts that includes the Upaniṣads, and in terms of the enduring relevance of ancient concepts such as tapas. It also considers key distinctions between the oldest Vedas and later traditions of yogic practice.

The talk was originally presented live at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies – as part of their programme of online courses. Questions can be posted in comment threads under the video, where they'll be answered as soon as possible. There's also the option to book a live one-to-one Q&A to discuss any topic in more depth.


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Introductory Video

About the Speaker

Daniel Simpson is the author of The Truth of Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide to Yoga's History, Texts, Philosophy, and Practices, which was published in 2021 by North Point Press (an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

He teaches courses on yoga history and philosophy at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and SOAS, University of London. He also contributes to yoga teacher trainings, and offers online talks and international workshops.

Daniel is a graduate of Cambridge University and earned his M.A. in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation from SOAS. In a previous career, he was a foreign correspondent, working for Reuters and the New York Times

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