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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.
This martial aspect was always there with the different Hindu, Buddhist and Jain dynasties in the region.
It is among these traditional martial arts that we can find the most diverse and extensive traditions of exercise.
It has also gotten some to hold that active or strong exercise methods, like calisthenics type movements, only entered India recently through Europe and were previously unknown, with Yoga asanas being the main form of exercise taught in India.
This plays into cultural stereotypes that Indians are physically weak and the Europeans physically strong – a view that arguably borders on racism.
This plays into stereotypes of India as not having strong martial or military traditions, some arising from the recent emphasis on Gandhi ahimsa in the country.
Several scholars of modern Yoga have proposed something of this kind.Vishvamitra is the seer of the third of the ten books of the Rigveda and of the famous Gayatri mantra, the most widely used Vedic mantras for all the Hindus.