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Yoga Sutras of Patanjali An Historical Text

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a book of 195 separate phrases that are designed to be easy to memorize. Because it is a work that is every bit as much a part of modern yoga as it was a part of the birth of yoga, this particular book is held in very high esteem in the yoga world.

Some Background

The origin of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is the topic of some debate among both historians and practitioners. For instance, there are some people out there who credit the writing of this set of sutras to a grammarian named Patanjali. Later, though, a timeline was constructed that showed that to be unlikely. Within the yoga community, though, many say that Patanjali was actually just a compiler and that before the work was written, the Sutras were simply memorized and passed down between teacher and student. Timelines do, though, suggest this text was constructed in about the second century B.C.

The name of this text is named using Sanskrit words: yoga, you probably know, is a mindset wherein you are able to gain mastery of feelings and thoughts alike. Sutra literally means “thread.” This thread is basically the connection between the sutras in the work. In fact, some people call the Patanjali Sutras the Yoga Aphorisms in English. It is not an altogether incorrect loose translation.

Understanding the Text

The sutras in the text are divided into four books. Fifty one of the sutras are contained in the book called Samadhi Pada, fifty five of them are in Sadhana Pada, fifty five are also in Vibhuti Pada, and thirty four of the sutras can be found in Kaivalya Pada.

The book Samadhi Pada contains sutras that are most considered fundamental to yoga. It emphasizes that yoga is about discipline and that it is the ability to master your feelings and thoughts. Many of the most famous yoga sutras come from this particular book.

In the Sadhana Pada, there is much about practice since the Sanskrit word “sadhana” actually does mean practice. This chapter is where Kriya Yoga and the eight limbs of yoga first appear. These aspects reflect the idea that yoga is both selfless and spiritual.

The Vibhuti Pada can be translated “power.” The roles of the sutras in this particular book are to describe and help the yogi to achieve full awareness through yoga. It is essentially about attaining higher levels of awareness of one’s self.

Finally, the Kaivalya Pada means, again in Sanskrit, “isolation.” What this book is really about, though, is achieving liberation, according to the principles set within it. Yoga teaches to concentrate on self and attaining higher levels of consciousness, and this book uses 34 sutras to pursue this idea.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a staple for many, and describe the ideas upon which the yoga tradition has passed through more recent (from the 2nd century BC), history.

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