If you give any depth of study to Patanjali, you will find he is often quoted as a “codifier” of Yoga. He was a journalist of the highest order writing down all the practices at his time and also referencing practices of the past. He was quite diplomatic in the Yoga Sutra-s giving a nod to all the different practices. And he put all the practices in terse format, so it would be easier to memorize for generations through the millennia.
One of the references that Patanjali may have drawn from come from the Śāṇḍilya Upanishad, an Atharvavedaic text dating back between 1000-1500 BCE (Patanjali existed around the second century BCE). This is a short treatise that mentions eight limbs of Yoga. It begins with a teaching between Arthavan and Śāṇḍilya:
Śāṇḍilya: “Please tell me about the eight angas of Yoga which is the means of attaining Atman.”
Artharvan: “The eight Agnas are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Of these, Yama is of ten kinds and so is Niyama. There are eight Asanas. Pranayama is of three kinds. Pratyahara is of five kinds; so also is Dharana. Dhyana is of two kind and Samadhi is of one kind only.”
The ten Yamas of this Upanishad are:
Ahimsa (not causing pain of anyone both physically and mentally)
Asteya (Not coveting)
Arjava (equanimity of mind in actions)
Dhriti (Preserving firmness of mind in periods of gain or loss)
Mitahara (Taking of only oily or sweet food leaving one fourth of the stomach empty)
Saucha (Both internal and external cleanliness)
There are also ten Niyamas:
Tapas (Empanciation from the body through penance)
Astika (Belief in merits or demerits of actions set forth in the Vedas)
Isvarapujana (Worship of God with a pure heart)
Siddhanta-Srivara (Inquiry of the significance of Vedanta)
Hrih (Shame when straying from actions set forth in the Vedas)
Mati (Faith in the paths laid out in the Vedas)
Japa (practicing the Mantras)
Vrata (Regular observance of Vedic actions, and non observance of actions that are not in the Vedas).
The text then expounds on Asanas and Pranayamas. Perhaps that will be another blog post. The scholar/historian in me is fascinated by this text. I find it comforting and reaffirming that these practices have been around for thousand and thousands of years. The fact that we can still access this text in 2015 shows that it is true enough to stand the test of time.