You will know yoga for sure, but do you know what is yoga sutras all about? Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are 196 sutras or aphorisms, compiled from other much older sources before 400 CE by Indian called Sage Patanjali.
Yoga and pranayamas have been practised and promoted for thousands of years across the globe, entusing people across languages, nationalities, races and religions.
Yoga sutras makes it clear that yoga is a philosophy, not a religion or exercise and it’s primary aim is to remain healthy by attaining a balance between body, mind and soul.
Now, the teachings of yoga.
Yoga Sutra 1.1
What is Yoga Sutras All About
“May practise of yoga lead to reduction in suffering and increase in happiness by better focus in spiritual practise”
Translation from Sanskrit pre yoga sutras source
patañjali yoga sūtram
Yoga Sutras is the collection of ancient yoga texts, assembled by Indian Sage Patanjali 1700 years ago. They describe the eight limbs of yoga, offering guidelines to purposeful and meaningful life.
Who Was Sage Patanjali
Sage Patanjali is considered as one of the true Indian renaissance man. Besides the yoga sutras he is famous for, he also wrote extensive literature both in Ayurveda, hence defining the concept of doshas, and about the Sanskrit language and its grammar.
Surprisingly little is known about Patanjali and it is thought his teachings are perhaps an outcome of a group effort, spanning over several generations the work passing on from one teacher to the other.
There is also a myth of his birth. He was sent by God Vishnu to teach yoga on Earth in a human form as an reincarnation of thousand headed serpent Remainder to a powerful virgin yogini called Gonika, who took him in and nurtured him as her own son.
Yoga Sutras Explained
Nowadays anyone can read yoga sutra because it has been translated to many different languages from the original Sanskrit and you can even listen to them in audio files!
However in the ancient times, it took years of yoga practise and commitment by the novice to be allowed to read the spiritual teachings of the yoga sutra and start the chanting of its verses.
Yoga sutras purpose is to teach a philosophy to live ethical, meaningful and purposeful life, by defining the spiritual disciplines, divine powers and the realisations that can be achieved by yoga practise.
They are divided into four parts:
- Samadhi Pada – Concentration
- Sadhana Pada – Practice
- Vibhuti Pada – Progressing
- Kaivalya Pada – Liberation
The first yoga sutra starts by answers the basic question: What is Yoga by explaining yoga is mastery and integration of the activities of the mind.
It goes on explaining the importance of practice, concentration, effort and commitment. It talks about different ways of concentration, importance of aum as a shortcut to peace of mind and stabilising and clearing the mind.
The second yoga sutra starts by talking about different colouring of thoughts and dealing with them. It then moves on to talk about karma and how to break alliance to it.
Next the text describes the eight limbs of yoga that the practiser has to follow on the path to enlightenment:
- Yama – restrain and self control
- Niyama – Activities and habits
- Asana – Yoga postures
- Pranayama – Yoga breathing exercises
- Pratyahara – Food and diet
- Dharana – Concentration and focus
- Dhyana – Meditation, contenplation and reflection
- Samadhi – State of meditative consciousness
Namas and Niyamas are defined next. They are the ethical rules of both yoga and Hinduism, containing commandments, morals, rules and goals. Their benefits are explained in more details.
Asanas, the yoga poses are described in disciplining the body, before moving on to pranayamas, the breathing exercises, and their benefits. The importance of vegetarian food and diet is emphasised for the connection of the body and mind.
The third yoga sutra is used to explain the concepts of meditation and meditative state. It explored deeper concepts such as samyama, the practice and simultaneous experiencing of Dharan and Dhyana, complete focus and meditation.
It goes on to explore the different stages such as internal stage, leaving the body and moving into an other body. It talks about the knowledge and experiences of the renunciation and finally liberation by these practises.
Third yoga sutra concentrates on the practise and experience obtained with it, leading to the mastery of the body and the mind.
The connection of actions and karma are explained before moving on to the memory and subconsciousness. The concept of 3 gunas, personality types in explained, together with different stages of mind.
The fourth yoga suttra ends in enlightenment and how following the eight legs of yoga can lead to it. It talks about the chances that the person who has reached the enlightenment experiences in their knowledge, meditation, gunas and physical well being.
My Loving Advice
Yoga sutras can only be understoods by regular practice of yoga. I first came across them when I started to study Sanskrit more than 20 years ago and only finally understood their full meaning when I studied them with the lead of my yoga guru.
Yoga sutras define the eight paths of yoga and these are basis for the every modern yoga teacher education. They outline a philosophy for the every yogi and yogini to live by. It makes it clear that meditation and pranayamas are an important part of yoga practise.
If you are a beginner and want to know how to start yoga practice, take a look at my article: Starting Yoga Practice. Meditation is also an essential part of yoga and my article: Benefits of Meditation talks about how it can positively influence your life.
I hope you have enjoyed my introduction and learned what yoga sutras is all about! If you have any questions of comments, please leave a message below.
ॐ Love and Clarity of the Mind,