Shining Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

by Jasmine Astra-Elle Grace

Do you hear teachers talking about the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in class and wonder what they are rambling about? Well, over the next few months, I have been asked to share with you all some of the key concepts found in this important philosophical yogic book.  I welcome you to join in on the journey!  Some even say that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali text is as important as the yoga mat itself…I will leave that for you to decide.

Invariably, “success” in yoga is through practice (sadhana). This idea of practice and experience for yourself is not only for asanas on the yoga mat; but, for all 8 limbs of yoga outlined in the philosophical text of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. While we may be able to memorize the words and intellectually understand the concepts, it is not until we have internalized the teachings and stayed with them for a period of time that we can truly be anchored in our own experience of the teachings.  Anchored in a knowing that exist in the silence and space between the words. Exploration of the sutras is essentially a method of self-inquiry.

If you are new to yoga or the philosophy of yoga here is the basic overview of the 8 limbs of yoga.

1. Yama -- the five restraints

Ahimsa -- Non-violence, non-harming, compassion for self and others.

Satya – Truthfulness in thought, word, and action.
Brahmacharya -- Control of the senses and energy conservation.

Asteya -- Non-stealing

Aparigraha – Non-grasping, non-attachment, non-hoarding.

2. Niyama -- the five observances

Saucha -- Purity, cleanliness of one’s body, surroundings and mind.

Santosha -- Contentment

Tapas -- Austerity

Swadhyaya -- Self-study, study of scriptures.

Ishwara Pranidhana -- Surrender to the fullness of self, surrender to God.

3. Asana -- Steady posture or seat

4. Pranayama -- Control of prana or life force

5. Pratyahara -- Withdrawal of the senses or to turn awareness inwards.

6. Dharana -- Concentration

7. Dhyana -- Meditation

8. Samadhi -- Total absorption, bliss, to hold the realization of unity.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the 8 limbs of yoga are very familiar to our Yoga on High Teacher Training Institute teacher trainees and graduates. In our 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training program, every graduating student has to choose a single sutra to contemplate over a month. The student journals about it daily for that month and has a first hand record of how the sutra shows up for them in their life. Their chosen sutra becomes a self-inquiry and a direct experience of living yoga.

In honor of the theme of the month, love, I was asked to share a blog on the first, and perhaps, most important Yama, Ahimsa. I have spent the last month refreshing my understanding of the concept, contemplating it, observing what rises within, looking at my level of harmony in relationships with all living beings, and doing simple meditations on love (which I will share with you) to raise my personal energetic vibrations. I have to admit I had a blindfold on and thought I was a “good” yogi living Ahimsa the majority of the time. However, as soon I brought my attention to contemplating Ahimsa it kindly showed me I have much work to do.

I look forward to sharing this most personal experience – the humanness, the self-inquiry, the practices, and the insights!

Shanti,
Jasmine Astra-Elle Grace

If you are interested in living the sutras with Jasmine Grace she recommends the following texts:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali -- Sri Swami Satchinanda

Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali -- B.K.S Iyengar

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali -- Edwin F. Bryant

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