The Yoga Sutras are a sacred collection of 196 aphorisms that form the foundational text of classical yoga philosophy. These sutras were written by the sage Patanjali, who is believed to have lived sometime between the 2nd century BCE and the 4th century CE. They provide a systematic and philosophical framework for practicing yoga and attaining spiritual enlightenment, providing a guide on the path of yoga, from ethical principles and physical postures to meditation and the ultimate realization of self and liberation.
The Yoga Sutras are divided into four sections, or “padas,” each of which addresses different aspects of yoga:
Samadhi Pada: This section focuses on the nature of yoga, the mind, and the process of attaining Samadhi, which is the highest state of meditative absorption and spiritual realization. It includes sutras on the definition and types of yoga, obstacles practitioners encounter in yoga, and the stages of Samadhi.
Sadhana Pada: This section outlines the practical aspects of yoga practice, including the eight limbs of yoga (Ashtanga Yoga), which are Yama (ethical principles), Niyama (personal observances), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (absorption). And, the concept of Kriya Yoga, which involves self-discipline, self-study, and surrender to a higher power.
Vibhuti Pada: This section explores the attainments and supernatural powers (siddhis) that can arise as a result of advanced yoga practice. Patanjali warns against becoming attached to these powers and emphasizes that they should not be the goal of yoga.
Kaivalya Pada: The final section discusses the concept of Kaivalya, which is liberation or enlightenment, which is the ultimate goal of yoga. It explains the nature of the self (purusha) and the role of the mind (chitta) in bondage and liberation. It also describes the process of achieving spiritual freedom and detachment from the material world.
The Yoga Sutras are the foundational and authoritative texts of Yoga as a path to enlightenment.
The Sutras are for those who commit to the Yogic Path, and the Yogic Path is one taken by Yogi’s who wish to develop to their fullest potential. It is the path to self realization. That path is prescribed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as the Eight Limbed Yoga Path. Through the practice in following the wisdom of the Sutras we begin down a path of self-realization, and we become a witness to the layers of our self. Yoga teaches us to listen, pause, take a breath, and let go. When we act and embody the Eight Limbed Yoga Path as prescribed by Patanjali thousands of years ago, we can reach our highest potential both on and off the mat.