Updated: Jun 29, 2022
Yoga Sutras are a collection of 195 aphorisms, compiled by sage Patanjali approximately 400 CE. Literally sutra means thread. These ancient threads are weaved and composed in such a tight and complex way that many of them are nearly impossible to understand without a commentary. And even with the commentary, some of them would make a modern yoga practitioner roll her yes.
After all, there are only three sutras about asana. And even those three don’t include any practical tips to headstands or jump throughs!
Then how is studying yoga sutras beneficial? Can’t we just do our asana practice and the rest will follow? Do your practice and all is coming?
It’s fun and interesting
Yoga Sutras describe the mental aspects of yoga (meditation) practice. Actually, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is not just a book on yoga, but a book of psychology of the human consciousness. Yoga Sutras describe the journey to the final stages of yoga, with all the obstacles and experiences and roadblocks that one would encounter on the way. So, you can read the sutras like a map of your possible future (yoga) destinations. An interesting and tricky map, that you might just enjoy de-coding, if that’s your kind of fun. If you're a little nerdy like me and enjoy solving yoga-mindstuff-puzzles, it's quite fun.
Make sense of that crazy mind
If you’ve been practicing yoga asanas for a while, you would have got familiar with some inner challenges and obstacles such as fear and resistance. Mental modifications affect all our experiences and our learning, and that comes obvious after a while of doing asana practice regularly. Obstacles that we meet when we do our practice are definitely not only physical.
Where do those inner obstacles and sufferings come from?
How to make sense of that crazy mind?
By studying Yoga Sutras, you will find some answers. That stuff was classified by Patanjali and perhaps way before him. Classification helps, and it also helps to know that it's not only happening to you. It was even happening to ancient yogis. Difficulties are part of the journey.
The basic mechanisms of the human mind have not changed much since the ancient times. Yoga in essence has not changed. But the world around has become more complex and offers a limitless amount of distractions.
If stilling the mind was challenging at the times of Patanjali, it surely isn't easier now. Our minds are constantly tempted to move to a million directions. Stilling the mind is maybe more challenging than ever.
Therefore, this guidebook is an essential read for a modern yoga practitioner.
Gotta love chanting!
Do you have a chanting practice already? In ancient India, traditional knowledge was transmitted orally. By chanting. If you’re into chanting, you can just enjoy that as a practice that… well, stills the mind!
Even if you don’t know and understand the meaning of the verses/sutras, Sanskrit chanting will help you to focus and makes you mind quiet down. Chanting is a wonderful and effective practice itself, with or without the intellectual understanding of the meaning of the sutras.
This is what you'll find in the first two chapters of Yoga Sutras: - Definition of Yoga. What happens when one is in the state of yoga, and what happens when you're not.
- How to get to the state of yoga.
- The states of the mind classified
- Afflictions, sufferings, and how to overcome them. What is the root cause of sufferings.
- Obstacles in the path: what is to be expected and how to overcome those obstacles
- Ashtanga Yoga: what are the eight limbs of yoga and why should we practice them
The Four chapters: