Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras
Yoga practitioners may find the practice through movement, but the philosophy keeps us plugged in and at the heart of yoga philosophy is Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras.
Who is Patanjali?
Patanjali was an ancient Indian sage and the author of the Yoga Sutras, one of the foundational texts of classical yoga philosophy. The Yoga Sutras is a collection of aphorisms that outline the eight limbs of yoga, a path towards spiritual liberation and inner peace. Patanjali is also credited with writing several other works on Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine. Although little is known about Patanjali's life, he is widely revered as one of the greatest sages and thinkers in Indian history. His teachings on yoga and spirituality continue to be studied and practiced by millions of people around the world.
Depending on who you ask, Patanjali is sometimes also credited with writing several other texts, including the Mahabhashya, a commentary on the grammar of the Sanskrit language, and the Charaka Samhita, a foundational text on Ayurvedic medicine. However, it is unclear whether all of these texts were written by the same person or by different authors who were simply known by the name Patanjali.
It is actually known whether Patanjali was one person, or perhaps a collective of multiple people. During this time, there was not as much written history and things were normally passed down by word of mouth. We don't have a lot of information on Patanjali, other than this is the author of the Yoga Sutras.
What are the Yoga Sutras?
The Yoga Sutras are a collection of 196 aphorisms, or short statements, that provide guidance on the practice of yoga and the attainment of spiritual liberation. The text is divided into four chapters, or padas, each of which covers a different aspect of yoga:
Samadhi Pada: This chapter discusses the nature of yoga and the state of samadhi, which is the ultimate goal of yoga. It introduces the concept of chitta vritti, or the fluctuations of the mind, and provides guidance on how to quiet the mind and achieve a state of stillness.
Sadhana Pada: This chapter discusses the practice of yoga, including the eight limb path of yoga (ashtanga yoga), which are yama (ethical standards), niyama (self-discipline), asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (union with the divine).
Vibhuti Pada: This chapter discusses the attainment of supernatural powers, or siddhis, through the practice of yoga. It warns against becoming attached to these powers and emphasizes the importance of remaining focused on the ultimate goal of yoga, which is spiritual liberation.
Kaivalya Pada: This chapter discusses the ultimate goal of yoga, which is kaivalya, or liberation from the cycle of birth and death. It describes the nature of the self (purusha) and the world (prakriti), and explains how the practice of yoga can lead to the realization of the true nature of the self and the attainment of liberation.
The Yoga Sutras are considered to be one of the most sacred texts in yogic tradition and the history of yoga. You learn everything from the Siddhis or superpowers of yoga to how to follow the eight-limbed path. The Yoga Sutras are widely regarded as one of the most important texts on the practice of yoga, and they continue to be studied and practiced by yoga students and teachers around the world.