What is the Yoga Sūtra?

A statue of Patañjali in the incarnated form of the Serpent-God Ādi Śeṣa. Below it reads, "Patañjali, compiler of the Yoga Sūtra." and below that is a logo that reads, "From The Hearth."
Image Description: A statue of Patañjali in the incarnated form of the Serpent-God Ādi Śeṣa. Half-snake, half-human, Patañjali sits on his tail with seven cobras' heads above him. His lower hands make the Añjali mudrā, and his upper hands hold a conch and wheel. Below it reads, "Patañjali, compiler of the Yoga Sūtra." written in dark brown text on a white background. At the bottom and centered is a logo that reads, "From The Hearth." On the top left and bottom right corners are wavy, dark brown lines as a frame.

You may have heard of the 8 Limbs of Yoga.

Where do they come from? Enter: Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra!

The Yoga Sūtra – which dates back to the second century CE – is the basic text of Yoga.

This is your Yoga user guide!

It is an outline to personal freedom and liberation.

It is the basic blueprint to organizing your life around devotion to the Sovereignty of all people (yourself included!).

 

Western imperialism and colonization quite literally sold me the idea that Yoga means moving my body into shapes with Sanskrit names. And perhaps you have been sold this too.

Based on my studies to-date: this is ableist, philosophically appropriative and downright ahistorical.

read more about The western Tradition of Thought that forms the basis for imperialism and colonization here

We DO NOT find a list of body postures in the Yoga Sūtra!

Moving your body into shapes with Sanskrit names CAN be an EXPRESSION of Yoga. AND There are many other expressions of Yoga that have nothing to do with body movement at all.

They are yours to discover!

In Yoga, it is less about WHAT you do, and more about WHY you do it.

Yoga is a formal South Asian contribution to moral philosophical disagreement.

What is the right choice? What is the good outcome?

Yoga answers these questions.

The Yoga Sūtra offers you a procedure for living life that is in critical opposition to the often disempowering life-living techniques that you may have been taught growing up in western domination culture (aka white body supremacy culture).

read more about what yoga really is here

“The Yoga Sūtra sets out a sophisticated theory of moral psychology and perhaps the oldest theory of psychoanalysis.

For Patañjali, present mental maladies are a function of subconscious tendencies formed in reaction to past experiences.

He argues that people are not powerless against such forces and that they can radically alter their lives through Yoga – a process of moral transformation and perfection, which brings the body and mind of a person in line with their true nature.”

– Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra, translation by Dr. Shyam Ranganathan

 

Through hard times and easeful times, it is possible to be in control of your relationship to your experiences.

You are capable of creating a life that you thoroughly enjoy living!

And the Yoga Sūtra provides a guide.

 

So why are there SO MANY translations of this text?

This question drove me BONKERS last year.

This book is supposed to be a manual for liberation, and I had five copies, all giving me different instructions.

It turns out that 99.9% of the translations out there are evaluations.

"The highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe without evaluating. - Jiddu Krishnamurti." A logo centered at the bottom that reads "From The Hearth."
 

Evaluation is the result of one choosing not to take responsible control for their mental content.

(This is incredibly ironic seeing as “Yoga is the control of the (moral) character of thought.” YS I.2)

When one evaluates, they hold their current lens of perception as enduring fact, rather than as based on current contextual underpinnings. From here, all experiences – such as reading the Yoga Sūtra – are filtered through and coloured by that lens.

The result? Thousands of different interpretations of Patañjali’s instructions, each one an example of what the INTERPRETER would say. Not what Patañjali said.

Yoga itself offers us another approach!

Observation is choosing to take off one’s current lens of perception and engage in a practice of logic. Experiences – such as reading the Yoga Sūtra – are sorted responsibly by getting curious about the reasons for conclusions that are provided.

This is a practice of Yoga and also a practice of decolonization.

Because it is the oppressor’s lens of perception that is ‘too important’ to take off.

Of course then, evaluation is NOT restricted to the Yoga Sūtra.

And yet the Yoga Sūtra is an incredible metaphor for what western domination culture does to everything it can’t understand: Option A: marginalize/oppress it and/or Option B: make it mystical.

Yoga isn’t a ‘mystical’ practice. It is a radically procedural approach of – and South Asian contribution to – moral philosophy.

If you want to learn more about the incredible gift that is Yoga (minus imperialistic and colonizing influences), please join us in next month’s Masterclass Series called Yoga Philosophy for Empowerment.

Early Bird discount on now through August 22!

This is a small group offering, secure your spot today!

10% of each sale will be paid to Sahaita‘s Farmer Support Project.

And if you are looking for a translation of the Yoga Sūtra from a trusted source for scholar-practitioner (orientalism free) Yoga Philosophy knowledge, check out Yoga Philosophy!

In interruption and practice,

Tara

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What is the Yoga Sūtra? – the one person revolution