Patanjali

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The yoga sutras, written by Patanjali, is an important part of the 8 limbed, or raja, approach to yoga. This book is an ancient text that lays out the path to union or yoga. Originally written Sanskrit, there a many translations and interpretations of his work. Each sutra is a statement that gives you a key to the practice. Each one is a piece, a stitch , or a suture in a larger body of knowledge.  Starting with the very first one “atha yoganusasanam” or “now, the exposition of yoga.”  Asana, or the posture practice, is a relatively small part of what is described in the book. Most of it relates to mastery of the mind.  As you get deeper into your yoga practice, you may want to begin to explore this book, as well as other ancient texts. There is insight into all parts of the 8 limb path, many descriptions about the benefits and challenges of yoga, and much much more.

Patanjali himself is a bit of a mystery. One legend says the he was an answer to his mother’s prayers. She wanted a son and not just any son, one that would help bring yoga to the world. She prayed to the gods and as she did a small serpent fell into her hands. This serpent grew up to be the half man half serpent legend who wrote the yoga sutras. His name refers to his birth, pata meaning serpent or fallen, and anjali being a position of offering, or anjali mudra (prayer position).  It is also said that he is an incarnation of vishnu’s snake ananta, the lord of the snakes. Snakes are said to be the guardians of esoteric teachings. As this incarnation he was born with all the knowledge he gave the world. By exploring this body of knowledge you can gain insight into your life, and the human condition in general. It is a hard book to sit down and read cover to cover. I would suggest starting with the first 12 and then delving in deeper. I like to read one or two and get to know them before moving on. each sutra builds on the last increasing your knowledge of the Self and how attain “samadhi” or bliss. The sutras can be studied, used as mantras, or even chanted. You may find one that speaks to you, one that helps you calm the mind.  Here a are a few of my favorites from the first 12 sutras:

 

1.2 yogas citta-vritti-nirodhah : the restraint of the mental modifications of the mind stuff is yoga

1.12 abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tan-nirodhah: these mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment

 

If you are interested in learning more, most of the information in this article was taken from inside the yoga sutras by reverend Jaganath Carrera. I also really like the translation and interpretation by Swami Satchidananda. Each translation gives you new insight into this ancient text.

 

The yoga sutras of Sir Patanjali is the science of joy and the blueprint for living a deeply satisfying life. It is a timeless spiritual classic whose appeal is founded on a profound and unerring understanding of the human condition.” – reverend Jaganath Carrera.

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