Understanding yoga through Maharishi Patanjali’s sutras


Yoga means many different things to different people. For most people, it is just a form of exercise to keep healthy – in mind and body. But it has deep spiritual roots worth understanding for those keen on advancement on the spiritual path.

Yoga’s philosophy, in a spiritual endeavour, is based on the fact that it leads to harmony of the body and mind by controlling the modulations of the mind. Many people pursue it to control the mind and senses. It is the same sense used in Patanajali’s yoga sutras. Here are the first few yoga sutras that form the basis of the philosophy of yoga.

Sutra 1.2


Yoga is the restraint of mental activities.

Our minds are always busy thinking about the past or conjecturing on the future. Through the practice of yoga, one is able to achieve stability and it helps to eliminate the mental activities to induce peace and harmony.

Sutra 1.3

tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe ‘vasthānam

Then awareness abides in its essential form.

When we are able to restrain the mental activity, we are able to turn naturally inwards. And the soul remains temporarily aware only of itself until thoughts again arise.

Sutra 1.4

vṛtti sārūpyamitaratra

At other times, awareness takes on the form of the mental activities.

It is the nature of the consciousness of the soul that it not only observes mental activities but also identifies with those activities. When we say “I am happy,” awareness has taken on the form of happiness.

Sutra 1.5

vrittayaḥ pañcatayaḥ kliṣṭākliṣṭāḥ

There are five types of mental activities, and they are either detrimental or conducive to the practice of yoga.

The study of scripture, sattvic thoughts, are examples of thoughts that are conducive to the practice of yoga. Thoughts of attraction to a worldly object, a rajasic thought, are detrimental to the practice of yoga.

Arunima Hoskote, who has contributed this blog, apart from being the editor of this digital magazine, is a certified teacher and practitioner of yoga.




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