The Yoga Sutras

One of my favorite aspects of yoga is the study of the sacred texts that have guided us to the yoga we practice today. The most relevant text available to us today is called the Yoga Sutras. Compiled by the Indian sage Patanjali over 2,000 years ago, the Yoga Sutras are made up of 196 phrases which are short and sweet, but certainly not simple. Like the physical poses we practice in vinyasa yoga, understanding comes with practice, dedication, and time.

The most common chapter, or pada, from the Yoga Sutras is Chapter two. The eight limbs of yoga, or ashtanga yoga, is presented here. The eight limbs provide us with clear instructions as to how to fully practice yoga, not only physically, not only mentally or spiritually, but to combine all of our abilities to become liberated into the present moment.

The eight limbs of yoga, in a nutshell, are as follows:
Yamas: our relationship to the outside world

  • Ahimsa: non-harm
  • Satya: truth in word and thought
  • Asteya: non-greed
  • Brahmacharya: non-excess
  • Aparigraha: non-possessiveness

Niyamas: our relationship with ourselves

  • Saucha: cleanliness of body and mind
  • Santosha: satisfaction, being content
  • Tapas: self-discipline
  • Svadhyaya: self-study
  • Ishvarapranidhana: surrender

Asana: physical practice to keep the body healthy
Pranayama: practicing breath control, i.e. Ujayi pranayama
Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses
Dharana: concentration
Dhyana: meditation
Samadhi: oneness with the object of meditation

Practicing the sutras is a life-long effort that brings us closer to understanding the true nature of ourselves. For more information, check out The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda.