Five Yoga Sutras That Will Change The Way You Look at Life

There are known to be 196 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. “Sutras” in Sanskrit translates to “thread” in English. I think of them as guidelines designed to help me live a peaceful life.

As I read and processed the translations of Yoga Sutras in Sanskrit, the following five stood out for me.

“Yogas citta-vritti-nirodhah” – Yoga Sutra 1.2

This verse simply translates to yoga being the inhibition (nirodah) of the modifications of fluctuations of the mind (citta). It can be used to demonstrate a new, more mindful and meditative way of looking at yoga, especially for those who perhaps initially view yoga as a great strength or flexibility building class.

“Atha yoga anushasanam” – Now, after having done prior preparation through life and other practices, the study and practice of Yoga begins.

Many times, we hear that people have been led to yoga due to hardships in life, or to find strength, and peace (with oneself or with others). I got led to yoga to find peace and to just “be”. I found myself new beginnings, where I could evolve and transform and be me. This was my yoga and my path to where I am now, deepening my practice and continuing to study myself and my belief system.

“Avidya asmita raga dvesha abhinivesha pancha klesha” – There are five kinds of colouring (kleshas) –

  • avidya – forgetting or ignorance about the true nature of things,,
  • asmita – ego, or the “I”,
  • raga – attachment or addiction to mental impressions or objects,
  • dvesha – aversion to thought patters or objects,
  • abhinivesha – resistance of loss, clinging to worldly pleasures or life,

– Yoga sutra 2.3

I have interpreted this verse as allowing us to realise the way we program our thought patterns – to be self-aware of these colourings of the mind. Sometimes these colourings are strong and other times just pass us by without us having any notice of it whatsoever. For example, during a practice, consider the colourings – ego (“I” – in a group class, where the pose is “too easy” and we want to do a challenging pose), resistance (a pose is “too hard” and we want to give up), aversion (we refuse to listen to the teacher who is giving us alignment cues to keep us safe), ignorance (if we are late to a class and pay no heed to stealing of other people’s time), or attachment (to perhaps a single form of practice rather than expanding our horizons and challenging ourselves to be the best we can be).

“karma ashukla akrisnam yoginah trividham itaresam” – The actions of yogis are neither white nor black, while they are threefold for others. There are three kinds of actions –

  • white (generally considered good actions),
  • black (generally considered not good actions), 
  • mixed (where there are shades of grey). 

– Yoga sutra 4.7 – 4.8

This verse is basically telling us that for a yogi, there is a non-attachment to colourings (white, black, mixed). The understanding of a yogi rests within understanding of “self”. There is no attachment to a reaction. Everything is allowed to “be”. This is a harder concept to grasp. For other people their actions may be “good bad or mixed” whereas for a yogi, the yogi’s actions “just are”. The actions are allowed to flow.

“vitarkah himsadayah krita karita anumoditah lobha krodha moha purvakah mridu madhya adhimatrah dukkha ajnana Ananta phala iti pratipaksha bhavanam” –

“Actions arising out of such negative thoughts are performed directly by oneself, caused to be done through others, or approved of when done by others. All of these may be preceded by, or performed through anger, greed, or delusion and can be mild, moderate, or intense in nature. To remind oneself that these negative thoughts and actions are the causes of unending misery and ignorance is the contrary thought, or principle in the opposite direction that was recommended.”

– Yoga sutra 2.34

This verse is telling me that our negative thoughts cause undesirable actions, and negative thoughts have the consequences of misery.  An example is the hurt we cause to ourselves when we hurt ourselves due to our negative thinking or we hurt others (a self-realisation due to perhaps karma or awakening). Where this becomes a cycle of hurting oneself and others, it turns into unending misery. We have to free ourselves by breaking this cycle of karma – too self-love, self-awareness, and clarity of situations. If the pattern does not stop, this is ignorance, it is a conscious attachment or possessiveness to the negative thought patterns and consequential actions. It is very possible to get attached to negative thought patterns and hence we must catch ourselves when we speak negatively to ourselves or obsess over something that someone has said.

In yoga, we gain clarity.

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