The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are a condensed and systematic exposition of the essential philosophy and technique of Yoga in 196 sūtras (aphorisms). Because the text is inherently cryptic, it requires a great deal of unpacking and interpretation. It has therefore been recommended by my teacher Noah Williams not as a guide, but as a resource for gaining familiarity with Yogic terms so there is some context for what is occurring as certain experiences unfold.
The Sūtras begin with a succinct definition of Yoga in no more than four terms—yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ. The remaining one hundred ninety-four sutras are an explication of this declaration.
Yoga is the suppression of the modifications of the mind.1
yoga - derived from yuj. To contemplate. Both a state and a mental process of liberating the absolute from the worldly—puruṣa from prakṛti.
- yuj युज् - Concentration of the mind, in cessation of the modification of the thinking principle.2 (yujir samādhau not yujir yoge).3
- samādhau समाधौ - in the controlled mind.
- yoge योगे - work without fruitive result.
citta - derived from cit. Consciousness, the mind. Later one of three aspects of patamārmā called sat-cit-ānanda
- sat सत् - Being, existing.
- cit चित् - Consciousness, absolute knowledge.
- ānanda आनन्द - Pleasure, bliss, ecstasy.
vṛtti - derived from vṛt. Contextually means activities, functionings. (YS1.6-11)
- vṛt वृत् - To exist.
nirodhaḥ - derived from niruddham. Restrained, controlled, inhibited. (YS3.9)
- ni नि - (a) Implying certainty, absoluteness, of an enhancing power. Frequently redundant. (b) Cessation, restraint.
- ruddha रुद्ध - Obstructed, stopped, blocked, suppressed.
- Patañjali, Mukerji, P. N., & Āranya Hariharānanda. (1983). Yoga philosophy of Patañjali: Containing his yoga aphorisms with commentary of Vyāsa’s commentary in Sanskrit and a translation with annotations including many suggestions for the practice of yoga (pp. 6). State University of New York Press.↩
- yuj. Sanskrit Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2020, from sanskritdictionary.com↩
- Maehle, G. (2008). Ashtanga yoga: Practice and philosophy: A comprehnsive description of the primary series of Ashtanga yoga, following the traditional vinyasa count, and an authentic explanation of the yoga sutra of Patanjali Patanjali (pp. 141). New World Library.↩