The science of yoga has been in practice since ages across the globe. It is not an unknown fact that it offers endless benefits to its practitioners. Enthused by the mystical powers of the science of yoga, it has made into the lives of gymnasts, athletes and various other categories of people across the globe. Gradually, it is becoming a preferred lifestyle option for several entities looking forward to a holistic well-being of their body, mind, and soul. Having said that, several yoga practitioners, aspiring yogis are always inquisitive to dive deeper into the knowledge of yoga sutras representing the philosophy of yoga.
The yoga sutra is attributed to sage Patanjali compiled near 400 CE. These are the foundational texts on yoga philosophy which begin with the verse ‘Atha-yoga-anushasanam’ meaning ‘now the glorious science be shared with the human race’. The verse also implies that the mankind is committed to the practice of yoga and, shall imbibe the practice into their lives and relationships for fulfilling livelihood. The Sanskrit word, ‘Sutra’ translates to strand or thread meaning a series of teachings stranded together like pearls on a necklace. The yoga sutras are a collection of 196 short, epigrammatic verses. Although approximately 2000 years old, its wisdom is immemorial. It continues to teach how an individual can live a happy and meaningful life through the practice of yoga. The four chapters of Patanjali Yoga Sutra are mentioned below:
1. Samadhi Pada: About Enlightenment
2. Sadhana Pada: About Practice
3. Vibhuti Pada: About Results
4. Kaivalya Pada: About Liberation
Long Ago, Seer Patanjali mentioned about Ashtanga Yoga in his collection of aphorisms known as ‘yoga sutras’. The eight limb yoga was popularized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India during the 20th century. The body of knowledge speaks about the natural techniques of progression to train the body, intellect, and spirit for spiritual upliftment. The eightfold limbs at a glance:
1. Yamas: The first limb is concerned with ethical standards focusing on one’s behavior and how a human being is supposed to conduct themselves in life. The five yamas include ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, aparigraha which focus on our relationships with other individuals and harmonious existence in society.
2. Niyamas: The second limb refers to self-discipline, spiritual observances. It encourages us to adopt a healthy lifestyle and pure contented mindset. Five niyama consists of saucha, Santosh, tapas, svadhyaya, Isvara pranidhana.
3. Asana: The third limb talks about Yoga asanas. It speaks about the physical practice of yoga which is meant to detoxify the body and promote long-lasting health. It helps practitioners find balance and develop concentration necessary for meditation.
4.Pranayama: Means ‘yogic breathing’. The practice of different breathing techniques clears blockages and results in a smooth flow of prana. This revitalizes the human body, improves quality and quantity of breath, and clears the mind from distractions.
5.Pratyahara: The state of sensory withdrawal. The conscious effort to draw awareness to inner self away from external stimuli so that one can progress on the spiritual path.
6. Dharana: It means concentration. This step is imperative for hyena state (meditation). It relieves you from distractions and gains control over your body, mind, and senses for better concentration.
7. Dhyana: A state of meditation or self-contemplation. A state where the mind is quiet and still without any thoughts. Deep meditation occurs with uninterrupted concentration.
8. Samadhi: The last limb, a state of ecstasy and peace. A practitioner develops a profound connection with the divine.
The next question arises why study yoga sutras? Here are reasons why Patanjali’s yoga sutras are so relevant in today’s time:
1. To learn about the very purpose of yoga practice: Yoga poses is a great way to increase strength, flexibility, vitality, and health of a practitioner. Moreover, Patanjali yoga sutra gives a broader meaning to yoga poses. It represents a way to calm the fluctuations of the mind. It teaches us strategies to let go off sufferings and discover the state of wholeness within us.
2. To understand the obstacles to your happiness: The teachings of yoga sutras help us understand how our own thoughts act as a barrier to our own happiness. It also speaks about how we can overcome these obstacles, in order to lead a happy and contented life.
3. To attach ourselves to the lineage of yoga: Studying the yoga sutras help us deepen our foundation of yoga enabling us to practice and spread the art with veracity. It teaches us to honor the fact that the practice was given to us by our revered teachers.
4 .To develop a long-lasting practice: We have conflated yoga with the practice of yoga poses. Sutras offer a broader view for better understanding. It is not only about asanas, but also about meditation, and pranayama. It helps us cultivate these teachings into our lives for more inclusive relationship with yoga for life transformation.
5. Begin to live yoga: Understanding sutras isn’t just about yoga asanas. Instead, it is looking what it means to practice yoga in the context of life. Yoga is not only a physical practice; it is a state of being. It teaches how to live a yogic life, how to act with values, and integrity when we face difficulties.
Immerse yourself in the teachings of sacred Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to attain enlightenment.