Health & Lifestyle

The Patanjali Yoga Sutras

Patanlali Yoga

Yoga has a rich tradition and heritage blended in its pedigree. The Guru Parampara has aided the knowledge transfer among the yogis. Yoga is known to be a system practiced and preached through Gurus. However, texts may as well serve as a torch bearer for the persons in want of knowledge. Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Vasishta Muni’s Yoga Vasishta, Hata Yoga Pradeepika of Sri Swatmarama, are few of the many texts on Yoga. Even Bhagavad-Gita, for instance, is considered as an authoritative text on Yoga. To bring about clarity on the physical and philosophical planes of Yoga let us consider the various segments of Yoga.

Yoga is also known as the Ashtanga yoga has 8 limbs. They are:-

  • Yama:  Austerity; Do’s
  • Niyama:  Principle and Discipline; Don’ts
  • Asana:  Physical postures and a ‘state of enduring bliss’ – स्थिर सुखम्      आसनammम्
  • Pranayama:  Breadth control; enhances slow, deep, and rhythmic breathing
  • Pratyahara:  Control of senses
  • Dharana:  Concentration and focusing of mind
  • Dhyana:  Engrossing the self into meditation
  • Samadhi:  A state of arousing the sub-conscious

Swatmarama’s Hata Yoga Pradeepika deals mainly with the physical postures –Asanas. However, Patanjali Yoga Sutras have codified Yogic aphorisms.

Patanjali Yoga sutras have their syndication with lifestyle and persona of a human mind. Examining the even intricate portions of Patanjali Yoga Sutras brings forth the subtle concepts of philosophy and metaphysics.

There are four chapters in the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. There are 51 verses in the first chapter, 55 in the second, 56 in the third, and 34 in the last. The four chapters enlisted in the Patanjali Yoga Sutras are:-

  • Samadhi Pada: Transcendental Segment
  • Sadhana Pada: Practice
  • Vibhuti Pada: Magnificence
  • Kaivalya Pada: Liberation Segment

Yoga Sutra as a Law

Unlike the statutes passed by the Government, the Yoga sutras are the revelations of (the great sage) Maharishi Patanjali.  However, the Patanjali Yoga sutras bare a striking similarity to the laws that are drafted in today’s world. Traditionally a law would have the title in the very first section, the definitions pertinent to the law will ensue the title section, and later on will come to the sections that define and explain the law to its users and readers. Now, the yoga Sutras begin with an authoritative note – “अथ यॊगानुशासनम्”, meaning ‘herewith the doctrines of Yoga are being laid down’. This actual serves as a title to the book. The very next aphorism defines what Yoga is. It says – “यॊगः चित्तव्रित्ति निरॊधः”, which means ‘to control the inherent nature of the mind’. Now, the inherent nature of the mind is to wander. It will never stay focused nor will it be free of thought. Yoga strives to control the mind initially, only to reach a thoughtless blissful state in the end. Later on, we see many aphorisms that explain the nature of mind and nature of the enquiry.

Yoga Sutra as a scientific text

The Patanjali Yoga sutras have an analogy to the principles of pure science. The Patanjali Yoga sutras proclaim – “प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमाः प्रमाणानि”, which means ‘experiment, inquiry, study, and citation’. Now a traditional science discovery begins with a hypothesis, then the experiment, followed by the study of the results, and then postulates are framed in cognition with the discoveries of the earlier scientists.

Patanjali Yoga Sutra As a Motivational Text

Some times we find ourselves in a melancholic temper. It may often be as a result of perceived failure or as a result of an unaccomplished task. Yoga Sutras have an answer to such intriguing queries that help lift our mind and accomplish half done or unfinished tasks. “स तु दीर्घकालनैरन्तर्यॆसत्कारासेवितॊ द्रुडभूमि:” – Yoga Sutra Ch.1, Verse 14, meaning ‘that is attained on the firm basis of a reverential and incessant practice which is executed for a long time’. Here, the word ‘that’ refers to the intrinsic nature of the mind.

The first two chapters of the Yoga Sutras deal with the gross aspects of the mind, whereas the next two chapters seek to implore the subtle aspects of the mind. The text has made a straight forward prescription for the external means to control the mind.


  • अहिम्सा (Ahimsa) Non-violence
  • सत्य (Satya) Truth
  • अस्थॆय (Asteya ) Non-stealing
  • ब्रह्मचर्यम् (Brahmacharya) Celibacy
  • अपरिग्रहः (Aparigraha) Non –hording


  • .शॊच(shaucha) Cleanliness
  • संतॊश (Santosha) Contentment
  • स्वाध्याय (Svadhyaya) Self-study
  • ईश्वरप्रणिधान (eshwarapranidhana) Surrender
  • तपस् (Tapas) Austerity

Often there is a misconception about Yogasana as a means to exercise the body alone. The practice of asana and pranayama has actually been prescribed in the text as a means for mind control.  The underling feature of the physical yogic practices is its impact on the mind. “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha. Hence, to gain a peaceful and a joyful mind would be the pursuit of a Yogi.

The subtle techniques referred to later on in the text are Pratyahara, Dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi. These methods help to know the self or the atman.

The knowledge systems of the west and that of the east have a primarily distinctive feature. The knowledge systems of the west are based upon their vision of the external fascinations. The revelations of the east, however, are based upon their yearning for spiritual foresight. To even look into the ancient Indian tests at a gross level enthralls ones mind. What then could equal to the happiness got from exploring the subtle connotations of the aphorisms. So let us assure ourselves to peruse, practice, and preach the teachings of the great sage Patanjali.

  • Anup Vittal,[email protected]

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