Patanjali's Yoga Sutras - Brief Introduction
As you start learning more about the practice and meaning of Yoga, sage Patanjali's Yoga Sutras written in 400 C.E lays a detailed outlook of the practice. It's a collection of 196 short verses that serve as a guide to attain wisdom and work towards enlightenment. Yoga Sutras are intended to provide depth and practical knowledge to help yogis and yoginis explore the central meaning of yoga.
There's a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and information available to all of us as we start the practice of Yoga. But, it's being lost in the pursuit of external factors nowadays. Unfortunately, a thin body, the perfect Instagram-worthy figure, the awesome Backbend at the edge of a cliff - these have become the hallmarks of Yoga practice! These picture-perfect Asanas are important definitely, but they shouldn't become the only focus of the practice. They are stepping stones to keep the body flexible, the breath flowing without obstructions so that we can sit in Dhyana / Meditation and work towards Inner peace and acceptance of oneself and this incarnation.
But, is that the true goal of practicing Yoga, or is there more?
That's the study of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras - meaningful, insightful, and applicable to body, mind, and our spiritual growth; whether we achieve the perfect Shirshasana or Chakrasana is completely optional!!
Let's understand the Yoga Sutras in more detail.
The 196 sutras are divided into four Paadas or chapters - Samadhi, Sadhana, Vibhuti, and Kaivalya.
Samadhi Paada : This chapter discusses the meaning of Yoga; there are 51 Sutras in this Paada and it focuses on various ways to attain concentration, go deeper in meditation and move towards enlightenment.
Sadhana Paada : This chapter introduces the student to the 8 Limbs of Yoga / Ashtanga Yoga
The 8 limbs are
- Yama : 5 Principles of Ethics
- Niyama : 5 Principles of conduct & discipline
- Asana : Physical Movements of Yoga
- Pranayama : Techniques to regulate the flow of Breath
- Pratyahara : Withdrawing the sensory stimuli toward silence
- Dharana : Maintaining concentration on the breath or an object of focus
- Dhyana : Siting deeper into Stillness & awareness
- Samadhi : Enlightenment
This chapter is definitely very useful to understand the Yogic tradition and the depth of the knowledge which is available to us if we are interested in learning more :)
Vibhuti Paada : There are 56 Sutras in this Paada and they focus on the benefits of practicing Yoga regularly. Hopefully, this wisdom can lead the student towards Dhyana and Samadhi
Kaivalya Paada : This is the final chapter and contains 34 Sutras that focus on Liberation and Freedom from suffering. Quite an esoteric goal for most of us, right? :) But, each mindful step is part of the journey.
Whether you’re just getting started with your yoga practice or you’ve got decades under your belt, there is always something new to be learned from the Yoga Sutras.
If you are interested in learning more, you could start off with "Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" - BKS Iyengar. Do reach out to me if you want to learn more.