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  • Writer's pictureSavitha Enner

Yoga sutras of Patanajali or Pantanjali's way of doing Yoga

I am continuing to explore and offer more about yoga through Yoga sutras of Patanajali, simple put Pantanjlai's way of doing/prcatcing Yoga.

I have posts about what is yoga , here

and another one explaining the roots/origin of yoga ,here

I recommend going through them for a better understanding. 

Patanjalis Yoga sutras is a text with 198 versus ( sutras) , about 1200 words and if typed down ,probably would be about 4 pages long. Like any other ancient Sanskrit work, yoga sutras are concise and in a lyrical format as they were taught in oral tradition. They were passed down from teacher to students orally ,recited and memorized .Pantajali makes it clear the prcationer of this kind of Yoga can follow any faith, can be of any gender, can have any kind of job, and can  from any part of the globe. These teachings are universal and  can be practiced by anybody. I personally think that is the reason these teachings became so popular  and was adopted by the western world. Patanjali’s  versus  lays the foundation and creates a path to self realization. It is  not as a philosophy but  a guide and manual.  A good manual explains different parts involved, troubleshoot the problems which might come your  way,  offer solution and help you to put together a whole piece,  be  it a shelving unit you might buy from Ikea or sophisticated computer. Pantanjali takes takes the same approach, he first defines the goal or the meaning of yoga, explains the difficulties we might face, offers solution and lays down a path for this practice in a 8 fold step called Ashta-anga , eight-limbed path. Its important note that these 8 limbs of yoga practice are  not merely steps  but limbs which means that we need all the limbs for an effective practice. 

Where does this all start ? I am explaining the first sutras briefly here to give you a context and the nature of this text.

Atha Yoganushasnam is the very first sutra of 198. Anushasanam means to continue the teachings. Pantajali who is considered as the father of modern Yoga ( about 3 thousand years is modern in Indian scripts) says that he is not the founder of this science called Yoga. He is merely bringing together the pre exciting practices and teachings, adding what is missing to formulate this manual or guide. He acknowledges the work which has already be done and takes credit only to continue that education. 

Yogas chitta vritti nirodaha is the second sutra/verse in the text which first and foremost defines what Yoga is. Patanjali says that the definition of yoga is stilling the ever changing states of mind to reach  self realization or can also be understood as stilling/controlling /removing  the fluctuations of mind. Simple put , he clarifies that this 8 fold path is  practice of meditation. All the other steps are a preparation for mediation to reach a blissful state where our true nature can be revealed.

As these versus seem very cryptic, most of us understand this text by reading the commentary by yoga practitioner who dedicated their lives to this practice. I personally refer to all these books.

Commenatry by Swami Vivekanada which is a slender book of 127 pages 

Translations and commentary by Edwin Bryant which is about 600 pages long.

Commentary by Swami Satchidanada , a very easy read considering the depth of sutras

Yoga Mala by Sri Pattabhi Jois, who is known for Vinyasa style yoga called ashtanga yoga method .

Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar who is popular for alignment based asana practice.

The heart of Yoga by Desikachar who is popular for a a gentler approach to asana. 

So which one should you choose ? I would say, a teacher you can resonate with and have  dedicated few decades to this practice exclusively. The amount of time given to this practice matters a great deal as we evolve and change our mind about various things.The teachers and practitioners  with dedicated practice will only offer what has been  true even through that evolution. 

 Reach out with questions as I want to spark an interest, start a conversation so we can build a community around this life changing practice. 



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