I thought every Sunday I’d pull out the trusty Yoga Sutras by Patanjali for some deeper guidance. I do not claim any expertise or direct dialogue with a Higher Being, however through contemplation, careful study of translation and commentary and further contemplation, I have come to begin to understand the deeper wisdom of these philosophies. Today I will start by introducing the idea of the Sutras.
When I first came to the mat it was for the health benefits, namely weight-loss. A senior in high school, I wanted to look good, so everyday I came home and popped in my MTV Yoga VHS (remember those!?!). I flowed through the poses and I found a physical activity I loved doing for the first time since swimming. I enjoyed it AND it made me feel great. It wasn’t until later that I discovered yoga is a deep well of ancient philosophy and tradition. That’s when I became hooked.
Asana is wonderful. It gets the blood pumping, the body moving and bring strength and flexibility in equal measure. It is wonderful. But it is not the only “yoga”. It is part of the yogic journey to enlightenment, a part of a whole that together link mind, body and spirit. but yoga can be about so much more.
Yoga can be broken into parts. Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga are what I will focus on today (there is also Bahkti Yoga and Karma Yoga, which I will cover at a later date). Hatha Yoga is the one we are all familiar with in the west. It is the bending and stretching. This practice is meant to help one in the real practice of Yoga, mastery over the mind. “The actual meaning of Yoga is the science of the mind.” This is Raja Yoga. (Satchidananda)
The primary text of Raja Yoga is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, sutra a Sanskrit word meaning thread. One popular and well known book of sutras is the Kama Sutra, the threads of knowledge left by Vātsyāyana in the 2nd century CE describing in detail human sexual behavior. The YOGA Sutras are threads of knowledge recorded around the same time by Patanjali. (Wiki)
The Yoga Sutras make a handbook of gathered wisdom meant to help guide yogis on their path to enlightenment. Parts of the sutras are shared among other ideologies, such as Buddhism and Christianity. Though it is not a religious text, it is an important book to practitioners of yoga looking to deepen their relationship to their mind. According to the sutras, I, and no one else, have power over my thoughts and therefore my words and action. Is there anything more powerful than that?
Join me next week for another Sunday Sutra. Please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions, concerns or requests.
There are many different translations of the Yoga Sutras. I currently read and study the translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda. Click the image to view on Amazon.