The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali remain an essential yoga text for anyone undertaking the path of yoga. While you can find many interpretations of it, getting familiar with the sutras themselves is a great way to get closer to your yoga practice.
#1. Atha yoga anushasam
Now, the teachings of Yoga.
Atha is a word meant to draw your attention, as Patanjali tries to be brief he is also seeking your direct attention to the teachings to follow. Atha (ah-tah) means now, it is meant to show that you are now ready to receive the teachings of the sutras and you must now draw your attention to them.
Allow Atha to be your mantra as you practice today. Bringing you into the present. Use this as your ability to draw your focus to the practice. Use it to draw your awareness to the true teachings of yoga.
#2 – Yoga citta vritti nirodhah
Yoga is the resolution of the agitations of the mind.
The second verse of the sutras refers to consciousness and the ability to soothe the mind. Once you learn how the mind works, you can better understand how to navigate through life. Many thoughts, feelings and emotions flow through the mind, drawing it in one direction or the other. The citta is the mind and the contents that fill the mind can be ever changing. There may even be aspects of the mind that cannot see.
This verse is encouraging you to become the seer of your own mind through the practice of yoga. The seer is simply your authentic self, that does not agitate as the contents of the mind change.
Meditate on this verse by simply observing the contents of your mind. Notice when certain observations bring up feelings or pull you in a specific direction and see if you can simply step back from them, become the observer once again.
#3 – Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam
Then the Seer abides in its own nature.
Seen as one of the most important verses in the sutras, this verse is seeking to bring attention to the concepts of purusa and prakrti. By practising yoga, all things that do not bring equanimity can be released allowing the pure nature of the citta to shine through.
Meditate on this verse by drawing focus to the things that do not bring equanimity to your mind and allow them to release from you. Knowing that these things do not serve the pure nature of the citta to shine through.
#4 – Vrttayah pancatayyah klistaklistah pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smrtayah
There are five functions or activities of the mind, which can either cause us problems or not. They are correct perception, misunderstanding, imagination, deep sleep, and memory.
These sutras represent the five functions of the mind, in knowing these functions you can allow your truest self to shine through. Patanjali lists these functions and explains that they have the power to bring you suffering or not.
It is important to understand the functions of the mind so that you can identify which one is working in the moment and assess the level of agitation it is experiencing. These sutras also express that yoga is a way of working the mind and that through the practice you can begin to separate the fluctuations of the mind from your true nature.
Practice this sutra by recognizing moments when your mind becomes agitated. See if you can recognize which function of the mind is being stimulated and take a step back to simply observe the agitation. Take a few breaths and consider if the thing arising is a perceived agitation, a fear, or a real perception. This practice will allow you to understand the function of your mind better.
#5 – abhyasa vairagyabhyam tan nirodhah
By practice and
detachment these can be stopped.
Patanjali continues to focus on how to calm the mind completely. Utilizing what seem like two opposing actions of holding strong and letting go. This sutra is bringing forward the message of effort and ease when following the practice of yoga. Finding the perfect balance between both will help you to truly detach and let go of the things that pull your mind away from the practice.
When you meditate on this verse begin to notice moments where your mind attaches to any one thing. Hold strong in your insistence to let go of those things that pull you away from your practice.
#6 – maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha duhkha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam
Mind becomes purified by the cultivation of feelings of amity, compassion, goodwill and indifference respectively towards happy, miserable, virtuous and sinful creatures.
Patanjali uses this sutra to guide you through the things you must cultivate in order to purify the mind. Giving you guides on where to direct your practice when circumstances arise. By utilizing these tools you will find calm through any situation that you encounter.
The next time a person or situation arises practice cultivating compassion and kindness towards them. In cultivating feelings of goodwill, you will lessen mental agitations.
#7 – Tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa
The effort toward steadiness of mind is practice.
Patanjali expresses that practice is the only way to reach steadiness of the mind. To practice with effort whenever possible is the only way to fully achieve mental stillness.
Whenever possible create the space to put effort towards the practice of observing the mind.
#8 – Sa tu dirgha kala nairantarya satkara adara asevita drdha bhumih
To achieve a strong foundation in our practice, we must practice over a long time, without interruption, believing in it and looking forward to it, with an attitude of service.
Patanjali references a “long-time” in this sutra. This long-time is in reference to the fact that you must practice yoga for a long time to truly hone the mind. You must find a continued commitment to the process. You must also have a fully invested belief in the practice and its ability to help you. You must also approach each action as a moment of service.
Create the time in your day to truly commit to your practice with full joy in service of becoming a better version of yourself in order to better those around you.
# 9 – Isvara pranidhana va
[Samadhi is attained] through complete and total surrender to a higher power.
Patanjali references the state of samadhi where everything comes together. In surrendering to a higher power you allow yourself to fully focus on your most authentic self.
In your practice today, allow yourself to truly let go by turning everything over to a deeper faith.
#10 – Taj japas tad artha bhavanam
The recitation of that [
syllable, OM] [leads to] the contemplation of its meaning.
Patanjali believes that the divine rests in the state of Om. By reciting Om you become closer to the divine and closer to the true nature of yourself.
Utilize Om recitation as a means to develop a deeper connection to the true nature of your mind and the divine as you practice.
#11 – atah pratyakcetanadhigamah api antarayabhavas ca
Then, the inner consciousness is revealed, we come to know the true Self, and our obstacles are reduced.
(Yoga Sutra : Chapter I v.29)
Patanjali expresses in this sutra that the more you turn inward, the more is revealed, and the closer to your true self you become. It is through this full practice that you overcome obstacles that are on the path of yoga.
As you meditate, begin to notice the lessening of the obstacles that occurred in the earlier practices you undertook.
#12 – Drashtr drshyayoh samyogo heya hetuh
The cause of our suffering is the inability to distinguish between what is the truth (what perceives) and what appears to be the truth (what is perceived).
Patanjali advises that it can be difficult to distinguish real truth from the appearance of truth. The mind and its obstacles are hard to separate between the seer and the mind. Through the separation of the two, you become the master of the mind and see completely clear perception.
See if as you are triggered today if you can recognize the real truth of the situations that arise in the mind versus their perceptions.
The yoga sutras offer an in-depth guide to the full practice of yoga. With effort and discipline, you can be on the blissful path of yoga and the fully awakened mind.