So many people ask me, “What is yoga?” and are surprised to hear that it’s more than just a bunch of poses and some mindfulness techniques.
For many people, yoga is just part of an exercise routine. However, that’s not what yoga was originally created for and certainly not the reason I’m so into it. I love yoga because there’s so much more to it. In fact, there are eight whole limbs!
The word “sutra” translates to thread, or connection. So the Yoga Sutras are threads of information that connect together to create yoga. Each instructor has his or her own life experiences, or beads, that add to that thread and make each persons yoga journey look so different, yet be guided by the same principles.
A Bit of History
Patanjali Maharishi is considered the father of yoga. It is unclear if he was one person or many teachers who lived between 5000 B.C. and 300 A.D. Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras, which are essentially 200 one-liners that create the essence of yoga. This is drastically oversimplified, but for our purposes this explanation will do.
Sri Swami Satchidananda is considered the father of modern yoga and wrote/translated The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In his book, he explains each of the 200 sutras in a simplified manner that’s accessible to readers of all different faiths, backgrounds, upbringings, etc.
Sri Swami breaks down the Sutras into four sections:
1. Samādhi Pāda — Portion on Contemplation
The first section, Portion on Contemplation, is all about theory. Sri Swami is simply telling us all about what yoga is all about! It’s like when your yoga instructor shows you a new asana. She’ll likely tell you to look and observe first, before you go at it yourself. Same thing here; Sri Swami is just giving us information about the Sutras before telling us how to incorporate them into our lives.
2. Sādhana Pāda — Portion on Practice
The Portion on Practice is all practical information. This is the “How To” section of the sutras. Now that we know what’s going on and where we’re headed, we need to know how to get there. This section encompasses the first five of the eight limbs of yoga:
Yamas — Moral Precepts
Niyamas — Personal Observances
Asanas — Postures
Pranayama — Control of Life Force
Pratyahara — Withdrawal of the Senses
3. Vibhūti Pāda — Portion on Accomplishments
This is like the 7th inning of the ball game, that last oomph to get shit done! This section encompasses the last three of the eight limbs:
6. Dharana — Concentration
7. Dhyana — Meditation
8. Samadhi — Absorption into Universal
4. Kaivalya Pāda — Portion on Absoluteness
This final section is more philosophical. This section sort of talks about Nirvana, the end goal and the reason yoga was created. It’s a little dreamy, a little “crazy talk” if it’s not your thing, but it is an integral part of yoga.
As I said, this is an incredibly brief overview of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and I highly encourage you all to pick up a copy for yourself! I got mine on Amazon, but pretty sure it’s actually cheaper at Barnes & Noble. I’ll try to go over some of the specific Sutras over time, but there’s 200 of them and life happens quickly! Let me know if you pick up a copy for yourself. What were your reactions? Do you agree or disagree with what Patanjali and Sri Swami are saying? Reach out and let's discuss!