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To adequately approach this issue, we must first examine the greater exercise traditions of India, including Vedic martial arts, and not limit ourselves to yogic texts.
We must also understand how Yoga asana and exercise in general relate, their similarities and differences, and their respective places in Indian culture.
The Vedas themselves contains many verses in praise of ancient kings and their martial exploits, like Trasadasyu, with some Vedic hymns composed by royal sages like Sudas or Mandhata.[ii] Great warriors like Arjuna or Rama had special weapons or astras created through the use of mantra and meditation, and harnessing the forces of nature.
The most famous ancient guru of the martial arts or Dhanur Veda, who is found in the Ramayana as well teaching the martial arts to Rama and Lakshman, is the rishi Vishvamitra, a famous Rajarshi or royal sage, combining both Kshatriya and Brahmin lines.
In the following article, we will examine the origins of the asana side of Yoga in India, including relative to Vedic teachings.
Asana is the aspect of Yoga least detailed in older Vedic and Yogic texts and is the aspect of classical Yoga given least importance overall.
Yoga was never primarily an exercise tradition and we cannot look to yogic texts for understanding the exercise traditions of India.
Dhanur Veda or the Vedic martial arts is the main basis and oldest form of exercise tradition of India and one that has continued to develop over time.