Yoga Sutras

Hi all I am studying to become a yoga instructor, I would just like to get anyones thoughts on the Yoga Sutras and what you think I will learn from reading them.

Thank you

There’s no way at all to know what another person will or will not learn from a particular reading.

Generally speaking the work you ask about is a logical codification of practices predating the work. In other words the author (or authors, depending on your viewpoint) brings together succinct statements (aphorisms) which together and in order comprise a system of practice.

Some read this work and focus only on learning it, reciting it, memorizing it, but fail to live it. Others read it as though it were the only foundational work available and foster dogma in their thinking. A few read it, along with other works, and use it to formulate a tempered, robust, sensible living to reduce human suffering.

At minimum, for a new teacher, the study therein should build familiarity with the eight-limbed system and an understanding of yama, niyama, and kleshas.

Thank you Gordon for your words of wisdom, I appreciate your viewpoint and I do hope that I will be able to carry forward what I learn from The Yoga Sutras into my own practice.

I would like to approach it as a guide to being a good person, and being able to deal with the everyday stresses of life - kind of like a nonreligious Ten Commandments. When you feel good about yourself, that positive energy translates throughout the rest of you life.


You’re welcome.

Basically the Sutras can be thought of as a message from Patanjali that might go something like this:

“There is human suffering. You know of it and I know of it. Here is a system for reducing that suffering. Take it if you want less suffering. It is most effective when it is taken wholly and practiced diligently over time. It does not make you a good person if you do it and you are not a bad person if you do not.”

Patanjali Yoga Sutras are very abstract ones. But still as Gordon said go for basic definition first. At least you should be knowing what Ashtang Yoga is and how it is different than Hatha Yoga etc.

I have compiled Patanjali Yoga Sutras in concise manner. Go to
and click on “Patanjali Yoga Sutra”. Form this diagram itself you will know how vast and abstract it is.

Once you finish few years in yoga then come back to sutra again and it will make lot of sense to you then.

I am working on a cheat sheet.

1.6 The five varieties of thought patterns (vrittis) to witness are:

  1. knowing correctly (pramana),
  2. incorrect knowing (viparyaya),
  3. fantasy or imagination (vikalpa),
  4. the object of void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra),
  5. recollection or memory (smriti).

1.12 These thought patterns (vrittis) are mastered (nirodhah), regulated, quieted) through

  1. practice (abhyasa) and
  2. Non-attachment (vairagya).

1.17 The deep absorption of attention on an object is of four kinds,

  1. gross thought or reasoning (vitarka)
  2. subtle thought (vichara)
  3. bliss, ecstasy (Ananda)
  4. individuality, I-ness (asmita)

1.20 five-fold systematic path of

  1. faithful certainty in the path, (shraddha)
  2. directing energy towards the practices, (virya)
  3. repeated memory of the path and the process of stilling the mind,mindfulness (smrit)
    4), wisdom, discernment, training in deep concentration (prajna)

1.30 Nine kinds of distractions come that are obstacles naturally encountered on the path

  1. physical illness, (vyadhi)
  2. tendency of the mind to not work efficiently, idleness, procrastination, dullness (styana)
  3. doubt or indecision, (samshaya)
  4. lack of attention to pursuing the means of samadhi, carelessness, negligence (pramada)
  5. laziness in mind and body, sloth, languor, laziness (alasya)
  6. failure to regulate the desire for worldly objects, sensuality, non-abstention, craving ( avirati)
  7. incorrect assumptions or thinking, false views or perception, confusion of philosophies (bhranti-darshana)
  8. failing to attain stages of the practice, (alabdha-bhumikatva)
  9. instability in maintaining a level of practice once attained. (anavasthitatva)

1.31 From these obstacles, there are four other consequences

  1. mental or physical pain, (duhkha)
  2. sadness or dejection, (daurmanasya)
  3. restlessness, shakiness, or anxiety, (angam-ejayatva)
  4. irregularities in the exhalation and inhalation of breath, (shvasa)

1.32 To prevent or deal with these nine obstacles and their four consequences, the
recommendation is to make the mind one-pointed, training it how to focus on a single
principle or object.

1.33 In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating 4 feelings of

  1. Friendliness towards those who are happy, pleasantness, lovingness (maitri)
  2. compassion for those who are suffering, (karuna)
  3. Goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and (mudita)
  4. indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil. (upekshanam)

2.3 There are five kinds of coloring (kleshas):

  1. forgetting, or ignorance about the true nature of things (avidya)
  2. I-ness, individuality, or egoism (asmita)
  3. attachment or addiction to mental impressions or objects (raga)
  4. aversion to thought patterns or objects (dvesha)
  5. resistance to loss, fear of death of identity, desire for continuity, clinging to the life (abhinivesha)

2.29The eight components of yoga

  1. external discipline (yama)
  2. niyama = internal discipline (niyama)
  3. Posture (âsana)
  4. breath regulation (prâñâyâma)
  5. withdrawal of the senses (pratyâhâra)
  6. concentration (dhârañâ)
  7. meditative absorption (dhyana0
  8. oneness, (samâdhayaï0

2.30 The five external disciplines

  1. not harming (ahimsâ)
  2. truthfulness, truth (satya)
  3. not stealing (asteya)
  4. celibacy, impeccable conduct (brahmacarya)
  5. not being acquisitive (aparigrahâ)

2.32 The five internal disciplines.

  1. purity (sauca)
  2. contentment (santa)
  3. heat, intensity of discipline, austerity (tapas)
  4. self-study (svâdhyâya)
  5. surrender, dedication to divine ideal of pure awareness (îsvara prañidhânâni)

On Yoga Sutras’ Five Translations

A long time ago when I was just starting my study of yoga – guess it was 1986 or 1987 – one of my groupmates came with a clandestine reprint of a brochure made with the help of factory printing office. Though, it was not even a brochure: just several unbound sheets bearing the title Patanjali’s Aphorisms.

More information and history here: