Exploring the History – Did Yoga or Meditation Come First?

Exploring the History – Did Yoga or Meditation Come First?

Yoga: A Journey Through Time

Yoga – a practice that has gained immense popularity in recent years – has its roots in ancient India, where it was developed as a means to connect the body, mind, and spirit. The history of yoga stretches back thousands of years, but it is not clear whether yoga or meditation came first. To better understand this question, let us delve into the fascinating history of these practices.

The origins of yoga can be traced back to the Indus Valley civilization, which flourished around 3000 BCE. Archaeological findings have revealed stone seals depicting figures in yoga postures, suggesting that yoga was practiced during this time. As civilization progressed, so did yoga, evolving into a system of physical, mental, and spiritual practices.

The most ancient textual reference to yoga can be found in the Rigveda, one of the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism, composed around 1500 BCE. The Rigveda mentions the term “yoga” in a metaphorical sense, referring to the yoking of chariot horses, symbolizing the union between the individual and the divine.

Over the centuries, various ancient texts were compiled, providing a comprehensive understanding of yoga philosophy and practices. The Bhagavad Gita, a revered Hindu scripture dating back to 200 BCE – 200 CE, discusses yoga as a path to self-realization and spiritual enlightenment.

Meditation: The Ancient Art

While yoga was already well-established, the practice of meditation also flourished alongside it. Meditation is the art of silencing the mind, cultivating peace, and gaining insight. Like yoga, the origins of meditation can also be traced back to ancient India.

One of the earliest mentions of meditation can be found in the ancient Hindu scriptures known as the Upanishads, dating back to around 800 – 400 BCE. These texts explore the nature of reality, the self, and the path to enlightenment. Within the Upanishads, meditation is described as a practice for attaining self-realization and understanding the true nature of existence.

As Indian religions developed, so did the practice of meditation. The Jain religion, founded in the 6th century BCE, embraced meditation as a means to achieve liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Similarly, Buddhism, which originated in the 5th century BCE, placed a strong emphasis on meditation as a path to enlightenment.

The Interconnectedness of Yoga and Meditation

Both yoga and meditation are deeply interconnected in their historical development. Yoga encompasses physical postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), and meditation techniques. In fact, one of the eight limbs of yoga, as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras around the 2nd century BCE, is “dhyana” (meditation).

While yoga and meditation have existed side by side throughout history, it is challenging to determine which practice came first. It is plausible that yoga and meditation evolved simultaneously as complementary practices, improving the physical and mental well-being of individuals. The shared goal was to experience a deeper connection with the self and the universe.


As we explore the history of yoga and meditation, it becomes apparent that these practices have ancient roots stretching back thousands of years. While the precise order of their development remains uncertain, what remains clear is that both yoga and meditation have endured the test of time, offering individuals a pathway to self-discovery, inner peace, and self-realization.