Patañjali’s Yogasutra is one of the most important texts on the practice of Yoga. Think of it as an instruction manual for living a satisfying and meaningful life. It presents the principles of Yoga and outcomes that may be achieved through regular Yoga practice. However, its main purpose is to provide instructions for developing the state of Yoga and maintaining it in your life.
A Yoga Curriculum (Not Textbook)
The Yogasutra was composed in Sanskrit in India approximately 1700 years ago, and is only 195 sentences long. It’s written in the sūtra style which aims for concision. Patañjali does not describe in detail how to do postures, breathing techniques, or even meditation. Rather, he lays out the principles underlying all practices, and leaves the details to be taught by the teacher. As a result, the text functions more like a curriculum than a textbook.
Everyone Can Benefit
Studying Patañjali’s Yogasūtra will do more than just deepen your practice or understanding of Yoga.
It will give you context for your practice, illuminating concepts including:
- The definition of Yoga, its purpose and results. Hint: Sustained attention leads to clarity and authenticity.
- Descriptions of meditation, its process and effect on your entire system: body, breath, mind, behavior and emotions.
- Kriyāyoga – How Yoga is practiced in and through the actions of daily living and relationships
- In-depth overview of the entire process of Yoga
- Aṣṭāṅgayoga – the Eight Limbs of Yoga
- yama – ethical principles for improving relationships
- niyama – practical attitudes for relating to oneself
- āsana – intentional movements/positions of the body
- prāṇāyāma – conscious breathing exercises
- pratyāhāra – sensory exercises
- dhāraṇā – initial step of meditation: directing one’s attention toward to chosen focus, concept, etc.
- dhyāna – experience of meditation: continuous attention accompanied by insight
- samādhi – deep meditation
Embracing this ancient text will touch every part of your life and bring about many shifts along the way. It will reduce your suffering, increase your feelings of satisfaction and wellness, and improve your presence and patience. It is that powerful and applicable to your everyday life.
Yoga is a State of Being
Yoga is an optimal state of being in which the body, mind, and emotions operate to their highest potential and we feel a deep sense of peace and contentment. As Patañjali describes, this state expresses itself in many different ways. The practices detailed in Patañjali’s Yogasūtra are an opportunity to cultivate that state consistently.
Since every posture, breathing technique, or meditation focus generates an experience and experiences changes how we feel, think, and act, we can say that Yoga is a science of intentional experiences. And the Yogasutras explain how to use our experiences to refine our state of being.