I should have started with this blog before we went into the 8 limbs of Yoga, but I guess better late than never.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is one of the basic philosophical writings on Yoga. The language of the Sutras is Sanskrit, and 'Sutra' means 'summary, essence'. A Sutra can be just 3 short words yet the meaning of it can be explained in pages after pages. It is condensed into a short statement. Think about a zip file, how it expands when you open it up.
In the Yoga Sutras there are 196 Sutras organised into 4 chapters. They were compiled by the sage Patanjali around 2000 years ago (exact dates vary here).
The 4 Chapters are as follows:
1st Chapter consists of 51 Sutras and is related to Union - Samadhi (mediation)
2nd Chapter consists of 55 Sutras and is related to Practice - Sadhana (detailing the 8 limbs of Yoga)
3rd Chapter consists of 56 Sutras and is related to Powers - Vibhuti (special Yogic powers)
4th Chapter consists of 34 Sutras and is related to Liberation - Kaivalya (realisation of ourselves)
picture credit: unknown
Let's look at an example.
Right at the beginning there is a Sutra in Chapter 1.2 which explains what Yoga is:
'Yogas Chitta Vrtti Nirodha' - Yoga is the removing of the fluctuation of the mind. Yoga is the stilling of the mind. Yoga is the cessation of the modification of the mind.
Yoga consciousness is stilling the thought waves of the mind. Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.
Sutra 1.3 than explains why we would like to achieve this:
'Tada Drastuh Swarupe Avasthanam' - Then the individual can abide in their true nature. Then we can experience the Ultimate Reality and move toward Self-realization. Than the Seer arrives back to its own self. The purpose of Yoga is to re-establish our true identity (Self) which results in liberation from false identity and the cycle of birth and death.
There are several texts translating and explaining the Yoga Sutras in detail. My favorite sources that I would like to share with you are the folllowing:
Website - by Swami Jnaneshvara (swamiji.com) where the Sutras are explained in detail Book - Gregor Maehle : Practice & Philosophy (it may look like a book on Ashtanga Yoga, which it also is, but half of the book goes into deep explanation of the Sutras)