In this section, you will find an analysis and commentary of the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutras are perhaps the most important text to Yoga practitioners. The Sutras provide a framework, an instruction manual to guide the aspiring Yogi. Considered by many to be the basis of modern Yoga practice, the Sutras were written in ancient times by the sage Patanjali. Many schools of Yoga claim their foundation in Patanjali’s system, including my own, Ashtanga-Vinyasa, as well as Iyengar, Vini, Hatha, and more.
About the Commentary:
After reading many different translations and commentaries, I have consistently found a gap in existing resources. I decided to add my own humble voice in order to deepen my own understanding and study while offering a new perspective to the Yoga community. I write not from the perspective of a teacher, a master, but from that of a devoted student. My perspective on the Sutras is shaped by my own teachers, by scholars in the field, and by my own practice.
I work under two guiding principles:
- If the Yoga Sutras is truly a spiritual text worthy of guiding the practice of Yoga, it was written with the knowledge that its influence would extend thousands of years and thus is meant to be read at different levels. As such, I approach this commentary from a practical and contemporary, rather than historical, perspective.
- I seek to ensure as literal a translation as possible. I do not add words or phrases that do not appear in the original Sanskrit. Some Sanskrit words require multiple English words to capture their meaning; I try to communicate the meaning as concisely and effectively as possible. (Many commentaries address implication, add phrases, or change translations in other ways. )
I believe that the Sutras are an instruction manual, not an abstract, theoretical philosophical discourse. Academic and historical perspectives are very valuable and have their place (indeed, I have benefited greatly from their influence), yet I am sure that many struggle, as I do, to find relevance for the Sutras in a modern lifestyle. I hope to help place the Sutras in that practical context.
Like many influential texts, the Sutras have meaning encoded at different levels meant for different readers. Surface contradiction or differences does not equate to right and wrong; two correct interpretations can exist simultaneously.
The entire Yoga tradition, with its many branches and fruits, was created specifically for life in the Kali Yug, the Age of Darkness. Before this time, humans attained enlightenment by learning the Vedas and sitting in solitary meditation. During the Age of Darkness, however, humans, for the most part, lost this ability, and so the sages created many enumerated, specific techniques (the tantras) to guide aspirates to realization through organized practice. The Yoga Sutras represent one such enumerated method, with many lists both descriptive and prescriptive. All the many tantras are ‘correct,’ leading to the same goal. They differ to as to be effective to the many varying dispositions of practitioners. Similarly, I believe that the Yoga Sutras should be approached from a perspective not of finding an absolute ‘right answer,’ but through the quest, ‘How can I interpret this in a way that will shed light on my journey?’
[In the years] after it was written, what one notices is not that readers have slowly settled on its true meaning, but that meanings have proliferated each time someone looks at it.
-Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World, P.287, discussing interpretations of ‘Walden’
The correct interpretation is the one that is most helpful to you, not necessarily the one that is most historically or contextually accurate. The Sutras are written very concisely, terse to the point of being cryptic. This style may be an intentional effort to allow the reader to ‘fill in the gaps,’ to allow the Sutra to mold itself to the mind of the practitioner.
The Sutras are a living text that can speak to us directly, and so I start afresh, from the source, placing aside for the moment the thick patina of commentaries and academic study that have accumulated on Patanjali’s text over the centuries.