Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is a set of 196 Sanskrit sutras (aphorisms) on yoga theory and practice. Sometime between 500 BCE and 400 CE, the Yoga Sutra was compiled by the sage Patanjali in India, who synthesized and organized yoga knowledge from far older traditions (1).
The work is attributed to Patanjali by the colophons of the manuscripts of the Yoga Sutras The identity of this Patañjali has been the subject of academic debate since the author of the classic text on Sanskrit grammar called Mahabhasya, which is firmly dated to the second century BCE, is credited to an author of the same name. Yet the two works are entirely different from each other, so there is a lot of speculation on whether it was the same Pathanjali or is just a coincidence, as the books do not state if they were the same or not (1).
The Yoga Sutras
There are 196 Sutras in the Yoga Sutras, split into four chapters, describing the goals and practice of yoga, the growth of yogic forces, and, finally, liberation. The Yoga Sutras, like a gentle guiding hand, warn you of the pitfalls of your spiritual path and provide the means to resolve them.
The four chapters are: (2)
The first chapter focuses on concentration and meditation, as enlightenment.
The 51 sutras explore the process of being one. Yoga, obstacles to yoga achievements, the meaning of yoga, the significance of abhyasa (constant practice), and vairagya (detachment from material experiences) are described.
It is all about the practice in the second chapter. Yamas and the Eight-Limbed yoga method have been developed. Karma, Kriya yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and the first six sections of the Eight Limbs of Yoga are explored in-depth in the 54/55 sutras.
The third chapter is about Once union is achieved, the outcomes, strength, and manifest. The 56 sutras explain the last two limbs, dhyana, and samadhi, and add the power to activate the last three limbs simultaneously. The chapter continues to illustrate yoga’s capacity to empower the mind.
The last chapter is about moksha, or liberation. Liberation and what is done by the mind are explained by the 34 sutras. This final chapter is dedicated to total, unconditional and utter emancipation.
Reading and making one sutra pure in your life is enough though reading all of the sutras is suggested. The sutras are instruments for cultivating inner experience and raising the spirit. The practice contributes to awareness and the ability to allow the inner light, or atha, to direct the present moment (2).
The 8 components of Yoga
Undoubtedly, it can be particularly difficult to bring the sutras into practice off the mat, but it is a worthwhile undertaking, and beginning with the eight components of sutras will give you a brief introduction to the transformative impact that the basic but essential principles of Patanjali can have in your everyday life. You will benefit from them, regardless of your context, experience, or values, finding the resources that are so universal in your approach and applicability. If you have never considered the Yoga Sutra, consider these eight verses to be a key to the help that Patanjali has to give you in your own life. Maybe they will act as an invitation to learn more (5).
Listed below you will find the 8 components of Yoga Sutra, which consists of a set of observations and practices to guide your spiritual journey (3).
- Yama: Correct behavior toward others.
- Not wasting energy
- No greed
- Not burglary
- Niyama: The principles by which you should live your own life
- Spiritual awareness
- Asana: The seat of awareness; the yogi’s seats and postures to prepare the body.
- Pranayama: Expanding the life force through breathing exercises.
- Pratyahara: Looking within to explore the inner universe.
- Dharana: Effortless focused attention.
- Dhyana: A continuous flow, achieving perfection in meditation.
- Samadhi: Divine unity.
5 Reasons you should know Yoga Sutra (4)
- In order to recognize the challenges to happiness
The teachings of Patanjali help us comprehend how our emotions get in the way of our own happiness. They also demonstrate that the process of “disidentification” with our thoughts is the road to stopping suffering, supported by yoga practices.
- To start living your yoga life
Learning the Sutra, however, is not just about bringing asana into the broader yoga perspective. In the sense of life as a whole, it’s all about looking at what it means to practice yoga. Not only is yoga a discipline, but it is also a state of being. In order to understand what it feels like to live and behave in peace and honesty with our highest ideals, even when we face difficulties, Patanjali gives us guidelines for living a yogic life, including codes of ethics and self-conduct. This may be the best of all gifts.
- To build a lifetime practice
We have come to combine yoga with the practice of physical asana in the West, but the Yoga Sutra gives a wider view, reminding us that the practice of yoga is much greater. When we restrict our interpretation of yoga to asana, we restrict its capacity to benefit individuals. We might not be able to carry out vigorous physical practice as we age. But we develop a deeper and more holistic relationship with yoga by integrating asana, plus other yoga methods, including meditation, pranayama, and deliberate self-study, into our lives that can change all aspects of our lives.
- To remind yourself of your practice’s true intent
Yoga asana is a perfect way to improve strength and endurance, alleviate tension, and enhance your wellbeing, but that’s not just about the practice. In the broadest sense, Patanjali systematically sets out the concept of yoga-yoga chitta vritti nirodhah, or “yoga is the relaxing of mind fluctuations,” and also informs us which states of mind are not the state of yoga, as well as why we are suffering and what we can do about it.
The Sutra includes a strategy to explore the state of wholeness that already exists in us, and how we can begin to accept our misery and let go of it. This is the real purpose of yoga.
- To connect with the Yoga lineage
We are all part of a proud yoga lineage. The teachings of a teacher are received by any yoga student, and it is necessary to note and respect the fact that the practice was given to us. In order to practice and teach from a more authentic location, learning texts such as the Sutra will help us to better understand the history and practices of yoga.
Apply Yoga Sutra in your daily life 5
Patanjali advises you to understand that there will be some effort involved if you pursue something new, whether it is a friendship, a career, or a purpose in life. If you approach life with the attitudes mentioned in this sutra, you will find more pleasure in the activity itself and establish a strong base on which to develop the future.
Dirgha-kala, or “long time,” is the first guideline provided by Patanjali. This means realizing that what you are doing cannot be perfected immediately, that you have to commit overtime to achieve enduring results that you are satisfied with.
The next guideline, Nairantarya, translates as’ no interference,’ which discusses your ongoing dedication to the process. Your actions must be wholehearted; there’s a little bit of an attitude here and a little bit there that will not help you achieve your goal.
The third guideline, Satkara, means trust in what you are doing. You set yourself up for failure if you approach a mission with confusion, or with the mindset that your endeavor will fail. Patanjali recommends that your actions would have more effect if you believe in what you are doing.
Adara applies to the fact that what you’re doing must be looked forward to. Whatever you set out to do, Patanjali advises that you have to enjoy the job at hand, at some level. Even if what you’re doing is difficult or tiring, if you know you are experiencing something positive from it, there can still be joy and satisfaction in the effort. Adara is important because you are vulnerable to burnout or abandon your dedication without it.
Finally, Patanjali mentions Asevita, implying that with an attitude of service, you must approach each endeavor. You can do this by asking yourself, how do I serve my job best? My friendship? The practice? One way you can fulfill your exercise if you are parenting is to ensure that you get enough rest, time for yourself, and nutritious food, so that you can be at your best while you are with your children. Before making a major presentation at work, service for your efforts could mean having a good night’s sleep. Or it might actually mean doing the job with a positive mindset, whether it’s volunteering at a non-profit or running a large multinational company.
The ultimate reward of putting the sutras into practice is that you will feel better at every level in your life, while Patanjali is mainly concerned with relaxing, concentrating, and improving the mind, and the possible effect of this on your everyday life is infinite. You feel less anxiety and sleep well when your mind is less agitated.
Your confidence improves when you make fewer mistakes when you have a better view. When you take more emotional risks and communicate with others from a position of understanding yourself more profoundly, your relationships become more satisfying. You will take better care of yourself when you are more connected to your own desires and patterns, whether that means eating healthy, finding a new career, or having enough rest.