What Are Yoga Sutras?

If you’re thinking about getting into yoga, then there is a lot to consider. Yoga has been around for centuries, so you may be feeling like you’ve missed the boat or that you don’t have all of the information.

What Are Yoga Sutras

One of the common terms you may have heard is ‘yoga sutras’. So what does this mean? What are they? That’s what we are here to talk about! 

What Are Yoga Sutras?

The yoga sutras are a textbook and guide to help you on your journey with yoga. These yoga sutras were written and composed by Patanjali sometime between the second and fourth century BC.

Patanjali is considered the father of Indian yoga due to his teachings and writings on yoga practice. 

These sutras have been translated into many different languages and versions, but their purpose remains the same.

The yoga sutras are composed of 196 sutras, which all discuss the purpose, aims and traditions of yoga so that yogis can reach liberation.

The idea is that these yoga sutras are a sort of guide on your spiritual journey to help you overcome obstacles on your way to enlightenment. 

For instance, some important sutras are:

Yoga citta vritti nirodhah
“Yoga is the resolution of the agitations of the mind.”

Tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa
“The effort toward steadiness of mind is practice.”

Atah pratyakcetanadhigamah api antarayabhavas ca 
“Then, the inner consciousness is revealed, we come to know the true self, and our obstacles are reduced.” 

Maitri karuna mudita uperksanam sukha duhkha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam
“Mind becomes purified by the cultivation of feelings of amity, compassion, goodwill and indifference respectively towards happy, miserable, virtuous and sinful creatures.”

Yatha abhimata dhyanadva
“By contemplating on whatsoever thing one may like (the mind becomes stabilized).” 

Tapas svadhyaya isvara pranidanah kriya yogah
“Self-discipline, self-study and devotion are yoga in the form of action.”

As you can see from the above examples, the yoga sutras are like teachings, offering guidelines to live by. They can help you get through negative thoughts and feelings to have a more peaceful and compassionate mind. 

What Are The 8 Limbs Of Yoga?

The yoga sutras are closely linked to the eight limbs of yoga, which is referred to as ashtanga. This is because the word ‘ashta’ means eight, and ‘anga’ means limb or body parts.

This is where ashtanga yoga comes from, as it incorporates the eight limbs of yoga into its practice. 

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is the belief that an eightfold path leads to liberation; this is the ashtanga yoga system or the eight limbs of yoga. So, what are they?

  1. Yama – restraint, moral vows and values
  2. Niyama – positive observances
  3. Asana- posture
  4. Pranayama – breathing
  5. Pratyahara – sense withdrawal
  6. Dharana – focus, concentrations
  7. Dhyana – meditation
  8. Samadhi – enlightenment 


This is about being morally disciplined and taking vows such as non-violence (ahimsa), non-stealing (asteya), being truthful (satya) and non-greed (aparigraha) to lead a moral lifestyle. 


This limb is directed towards yourself and your actions in the outside world. This is about looking within or inward.

These disciplines will involve self-reflection (svadhyaya), self-discipline (tapas), contentment (santosha), surrendering to a higher power (isvara pranidhana) and cleanliness (saucha). 


This limb is all about posture. This concerns the seat and positioning for practising yoga and meditation. The posture for this must be comfortable for you. 


This limb is about proper breathing techniques, and how this can keep you alive, and how it positively affects the mind. With controlled breathing, you can meditate and remain calm. 


This is about sense withdrawal and about drawing in and taking in our sights, sounds and anything around us that affects our senses. This is closely linked with meditation.


This limb concerns focused concentration, linked to the previous limb, but you must withdraw the senses to focus all of your attention and concentrate. 


This limb is about meditative absorption when you become completely absorbed in your meditation and engulfed by it. 


The final limb is about bliss and enlightenment. This is the final step in your spiritual journey, as you come to the feeling of bliss.  

Why Are Yoga Sutras Important?

The yoga sutras are so vital as they provide a strategy for discovering a sense of wholeness or inner peace.

They can help us understand how to let go of pain and suffering to find enlightenment, which in turn, is the whole purpose of practising yoga.

What Are Yoga Sutras (1)

The yoga sutras are there to help you work through life’s issues every day to become calmer and happier. 

What Are The Ten Principles Of Yoga?

Within the yoga sutras, are ten principles of yoga that can help you understand why we do yoga and how we do it. These principles to live by are:

  • Ahimsa (Non-violence) – no violence towards others with actions or words.
  • Satya (Truthfulness) – live a truthful life and be honest.
  • Asteya (Righteousness) – no stealing, no cheating.
  • Brahmacharya (Wisdom) – live in the spiritual focus of God.
  • Aparigraha (Simplicity) – live moderately and modestly.
  • Ishvara Pranidhana (Worship) – remind yourself of spiritual goals.
  • Saucha (Sacrifice your ego) – let go of ego and desire inner peace.
  • Tapas (Self-discipline) – lead a disciplined life.
  • Svadhyaya (Reading) – reading of mantras and meditation cleanses the mind and spirit.
  • Santosha (Contentment) – be satisfied with what you have. 


To summarize, yoga sutras are the basic guidelines for how to practice yoga and reach enlightenment. They were written by Patanjali, who is considered the father of Indian yoga.

These sutras are like words to live by and can provide you with a path to enlightenment or bliss.

There are 196 yoga sutras in Patanjali’s writings, and these involve the eight limbs of yoga, along with the principles and disciplines of yoga.

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Angela Frederik
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