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Introduction to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali


The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, compiled by the sage Patanjali at least 1,700 years ago, is considered one of the main authoritative texts on the practice and philosophy of yoga. The Yoga Sutras outline the eight limbs of yoga, which teach us the ways in which one can live a yogic life. It also describes the results of a regular, dedicated practice. Yet before any of this, The Yoga Sutras begins by defining the goal of yoga and later goes about describing how one can achieve that goal.

Sutra means “thread,” which describes the relationship of the sutras—they are interrelated, or tied together as if by a thread. Within the Yoga Sutras are 196 aphorisms, short passages that guide the reader through four chapters, or books (padas): Samadhi Pada, which describes the results of yoga practice; Sadhana Pada, which describes the discipline itself; Vibhuti Pada, which describes some of the super-normal effects the practice can have; and Kaivalya Pada, which describes the process of liberation of the ego.

There are countless commentaries available of the Yoga Sutras, many of which are available in English. These range from the dense and philosophical to light and practical—and everything in between.

The first yoga sutra, 1.1, is a simple invocation to begin—and to begin now. Atha yoga anushasanam: Now the instruction of yoga is being made. It is a invitation to begin the study of yoga as you are, in this moment, the only moment that ever really exists. It is one of the most uncomplicated of the yoga sutras, and yet it is so appealing because humans love to begin anew.

On that note, we have complied a series dedicated to the Yoga Sutras that highlights some of our favorite sutras, what they mean, and how they can be applied to modern life. Adding the study of yoga philosophy to a physical practice is a great way to take your yoga off the mat and out into your life. We hope that you enjoy this deeper look at the practice that we have all come to love.

Links to sutras:

Sutra 1.2: Yoga is stilling the fluctuations of the mind. 

Sutra 1.3: Then the seer abides in itself, resting in its true nature. 

Sutra 1.4: Otherwise we identify with the fluctuations.

Sutra 1.14: Practice that is done for a long time, without break and with sincere devotion becomes a firmly rooted, stable, and solid foundation. 

Sutra 1.33: By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.

Sutra 2.46: The yoga posture is a balance between effort and ease–steady, stable, and comfortable. 

Sutra 3.4: The three [dharana, dhyana, and samadhi] as one is called samyama.

Sutra 3.7: These three [dharana, dhyana, and samadhi] are more internal than the preceding limbs