Though there is a abundant knowledge and historic information contained within its texts, Bramhanas primarily deal with sacrificial and ritualistic practices. Bramhanas consider Japa and Mouna (Chanting of psychic sounds and inner silence) as important aspects of yoga.
Bramhanas also mention the AUM mantra in written form for the first time and its significance is also explained in great detail. The science of Swara Yoga also finds its roots from Bramhanas. Bramhanas also mention the psychic powers that are developed through the practice of yoga.
Firm foundations of yoga were laid much later by the Upanishads. Yoga started to take a more definite shape within the Upanishadic texts. Upanishad is a combination of sankrit words which means to sit near and learn (from a Guru).
It is popular belief that there are more than 200 Upanishads written, the oldest one was compiled sometime around 600 BC and the most recent one around 1500 AD. Out of these many 12 of them are regarded authoritative. Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittareya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Shwetashvatara and Brihadaranyaka are considered major upanishads.
Traditionally, one hundred and eight of these Upanishads are regarded as authentic, and of these only about twelve or thirteen are regarded as being authoritative. The major Upanishads are the Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chhandogya, Swetasvatara and Brihadaranyaka. They vary enormously in their contents – the Mandukya is the smallest with a mere twelve verses while the Brihadaranyaka and Chhandogya each contain a few thousand words. The Upanishads are also known as the Vedanta – the culmination of the Vedas, for they are said to contain the essence of the Vedas.
Upanishads emphasize that the knowledge of ‘Self’ can only be realized through yoga, but not by mere debate and learning. The Self is at the very core of our being, it cannot be realized from the outside but from within as we are not separate from it.
Some Upanishads make straight statements about the techniques to be used in order to reach a state of meditation while others utilize analogies, stories and poetry to do so. Whatever is the method being used to describe yoga, Upanishads are more practical in terms of laying a path for a spiritual seeker.
One can be acquainted with the following concepts when engaged in reading Upanishadic texts:
- Prana & its implications
- Psychic pathways & important nadis
- Kundalini (psychic and spiritual power)
- karma yoga
- Aum mantra
- Basic rules of raja yoga
- Asanas and Pranayama
Though vast information on yoga can be found in the Upanishads, they aren’t mentioned in a methodical way for one to follow. They are distributed all over the texts along with other topics. Although yogic techniques aren’t explained in depth and detail in Upanishads, they are the most authentic and simple guides for yoga. The knowledge from these sacred texts are applicable to mankind even today and continue to do so. These texts are can be read and understood by anybody in any part of the world. For a successful absorption of essence from these texts, one needs an open mind, a willful mind to study and most of all an ability not to over intellectualize.