Yoga Sutras: the foundation of yoga

by Katie Bock

Yoga Sutras

The first time I heard Yoga Sutras, I thought Wow!  Yoga is way more than I ever expected.  That thought rang with truth, because yoga is so powerful and life changing.  Most of us think of yoga as a physical practice and it is so much more.  Join me in this exploration of the Yoga Sutras.

Pantonjali (pah-tan-jali) wrote the yoga sutras, in the estimated time frame of 5,000 B.C. to 300 A.D.  The exact time is unknown.  The 195 sutras are the foundation of what yoga is.  The entire Yoga sutras are written in Sanskrit, so you need a book of translation unless you read Sanskrit of course.  I recommend The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Sutra is Sutora in latin and in English suture, which means woven together/thread.  The Yoga Sutras are a woven blanket that covers yoga.  They are the foundations of yoga.  The Sutras are separated in four chapters

  1. Contemplation
  2. Practice
  3. Power
  4. Liberation

These four chapters encompass all of yoga.  And there are two sutras not chapters, sutras that are about asana.  Those two Sutras are found in Chapter 2: Practice.  They are

2.46 Sthira sukhamasanam

  • Translation – Asana is a steady, comfortable posture
  • Sthira means steady
  • Sukham means comfortable
  • Asanam means posture

2.47 Prayatna saithilyananta samapattibhyam

  • Translation – You can master posture by lessening the natural tendency for restlessness and meditation on the infinite

Asana is meant to open your body, bring your body to a place of ease so you can meditate.  Now let’s take a step back and start in chapter one.

Pantonjali defines yoga in sutra 1.2 Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah – Translation Yoga is controlling the fluctuations of the mind.  Wow!  That is Yoga.  The sutras in chapter one dive deeper into contemplation and controlling the fluctuations of the mind.

Chapter two Practice Pantonjali goes into the practice of yoga what keeps us from steadiness of the mind and the two sutra on asana are found in chapter two.  What keeps us from stillness of the mind, are you curious?  I was!  Here it is…

2.3 Avidyasmita raga dvesabhinivesah klesah

  • Translation – The five obstacles are ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred, and clinging to bodily life

That is powerful and full of truth.  The rest of chapter two explores those obstacles further.  The Yamas and most of Niyamas come up in this chapter too.  Yamas and Niyamas are and outline of self-transformation and/or an ethical code of being.

Chapter Three ventures deep into three Niyamas, the intuitive nature and enlightenment.

Liberation is chapter four.  I am going to mention one sutra in chapter four.

4.7 Karmasuklakrsnam yoginastrividhamitaresam.

  • Translation – The actions of a yogi are neither black nor white (good nor bad), the actions of others are of three kinds: good, bad, and mixed.

It is in this sutra I began to understand.  We are all divine beings and nothing we do is good or bad.  They are simply actions.  Dropping the labels frees us.  Liberation!

The Yoga Sutras are complex and at times confusing and yoga is life changing.  I encourage you to get curious and ask questions!  Learn more! Get on your mat and explore!

All translations were from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda


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