An Introduction To Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Patanjali was an ancient yoga teacher who lived in India around 2500 years ago.

This program is designed to give a taster and overview of some of the essential teachings contained in the four books (or chapters) of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali; the seminal text on the philosophy and practice of Yoga.

A sutra is a short phrase or teaching. Patanjali did not write the sutras down, they were chanted repeatedly so the students could memorize them.

This program is taught in a traditional approach by chanting the sutras in call and response before an interpretation and translation of the sutra is offered.

An Introduction To Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Week 1

Yoga teacher performing yoga posture on green yoga mat on white background

Intro to The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

A brief overview of the yoga sutras, and of Shruti Parampara, the traditional method of learning to chant the yoga sutras.

Chapter One (Samadhi Pada) Sutras 1, 2 and 3

The start of the yoga sutras grabs our attention and appeals to our sense of urgency. Now is the time to start to calm and quiet the mind. These first three sutras set the intention for the rest of the book.

Patanjali starts with a clear description of what yoga is and what happens when we practice yoga.  The third sutra also begins the important process of self-inquiry which will lead to an appreciation of our true nature.

Chapter Two (Sadhana Pada) Sutra 1

Chapter two begins with a description of Kriya yoga, the yoga of action. An active path for us to engage with, in order to move closer to yoga. Patanjali suggests three practices and how we practice them: discipline, study, and surrender into the unknown.

Chapter Two (Sadhana Pada) Sutra 16 - 17

One of the reasons the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali continue to resonate is because they ask questions which continue to be relevant. These two sutras come back to the essential essence of the purpose of yoga.

Why do we practice? To avoid future suffering. What causes suffering? Confusion between what is real and what is not.

Chapter Two (Sadhana Pada) Sutra 29

Patanjali has different methods for calming the mind and different paths to suit each individual. In this sutra, we get a description of classical ashtanga yoga (eight limbs). These are the eight parts which make up a full yoga practice. Each part or limb requires sustained practice, this sutra lists the limbs, the interpretation offers a little description of each limb and how to practice them.

Week 2

Yoga teacher performing yoga posture on green yoga mat on white background

Chapter Two (Sadhana Pada) Sutra 30-31

These subsequent sutras expand in detail on the first limb of ashtanga yoga; explaining and describing the yamas, the universal principles about how we can interact in the universe in such a way as to promote yoga. Each Yama is discussed briefly and suggestions about how we can apply them to our everyday lives are made. In sutra 31 Patanjali emphasizes the importance of this first limb.

Chapter Two (Sadhana Pada) Sutra 32

The second limb of ashtanga yoga are the niyamas. These are the personal principles which guide us in our yoga practice. We cultivate these five qualities as attitudes towards ourselves: cleanliness, contentment, discipline, study, and surrender. See Sadhana Pada sutra one for a detailed description of the final three niyamas.
Yoga teacher performing yoga posture on green yoga mat on white background

Chapter Two (Sadhana Pada) Sutra 46

Considering that yoga is now mainly thought of as a physical practice it is interesting that Patanjali has only one sutra which mentions asana (the postures or shapes that we make in the physical discipline of yoga).

In this short teaching, Patanjali suggests that asana should have the dual qualities of strength and ease.

Chapter Three (Vibhuti Pada) Sutra 1 + meditation

Chapter three of the yoga sutras of Patanjali moves into more cerebral practices. In this first sutra of Vibhuti pada, there is an exploration of how Patanjali describes concentration (the sixth limb of the ashtanga system).

Concentration is the preliminary practice for meditation. Mediation will evolve naturally out of a sustained practice of concentration.

As well as an interpretation of this sutra a short practice of concentration is offered which will be of particular use for anyone trying to develop a meditation practice.

Yoga teacher performing yoga posture on green yoga mat on white background

Chapter Four (Kaivalya Pada) Sutra 15

Chapter four of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali dives deeper into the philosophical implications of living a yogic life. This sutra occurs about halfway through the Kaivalya pada and it asks us to consider the nature of perception, how we all see the world from different perspectives.