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Patanjali and the yoga sutras

PATANJALI AND THE YOGA SUTRAS

Patanjali, Indian philosopher, is universally recognized as the encoder of the philosophy of yoga, we know about the birth of yoga even thanks to his texts.

The work of Patanjali consists in 196 sûtras that describe with great clarity and synthesis the Philosophy of Yoga.

In reality the word sûtra in Sanskrit means “bond”, “sequence” or “chain” and indicates how the whole work is a succession of ideas that fit perfectly just like the grains of a mala up to form a single concept that goes through the entire text.

PATANJALI AND THE YOGA SUTRAS

This type of writing is also called Yoga Darshana that is often translated as “Yoga philosophy” ; in fact the word darshana has a different meaning: it literally means “to see”, therefore Darshana Yoga means “the process to see through Yoga”, but of course it is precluded to seeing through eyes or any other sense;

The text is divided into four sections:

  1. Samâdhi Pada (51 sûtras): in which the general nature of Yoga is analysed and since the main technique is the Samâdhi, the latter is fully treated so as to give the name to the first section.
  2. Sâdhana Pada (55 sûtras): that contains the theory of klesa and an analysis of the suffering that human life involves and precisely here to face the first five Yoga techniques referred to as bahiranga, i.e. external techniques. This section is aimed to prepare physically and mentally the sâdhaka to a higher Yoga practice.
  3. Vibhuti Pada (56 sûtras): which covers the three remaining techniques (antaranga, i.e. interior) and the siddhi which these naturally lead to.
  4. Kaivalya Pada (34 sûtras): Exposes the essential philosophical problems that the study and practice of Yoga involve.

All the verses follow one another according to a indisputable logic and are arranged in a precise order, managing to touch every aspect of  the Yoga philosophy. Each and every sûtra is a small quote that contains almost a scientific rigor although in the form of a literal verse or poem.

What Patañjali  describes is often called Ashtanga Yoga, i.e. “Yoga of eight stages”; in fact even if the author offers a wide variety of techniques to harmonize the mind and body, the main path is divided into eight fundamental stages.

The first five are:

  1. Yama (harmonisation of interpersonal relationships);
  2. Niyama (harmonisation of inner sensations);
  3. Âsana (balance of the opposite nerve impulses);
  4. Prânâyâma (concentration of all the pranic energy);
  5. Pratyâhâra (recollection and elimination of all external distractions towards the person);

These 5 steps are  considered as the so-called external practices, or bahiranga, which gradually prepare the body and mind for the last three stages:

6. Dhâranâ (Concentration of the mind on a single point and the suppression of mental confusion using a psychic symbol as focal centre);

7. Dhyâna (meditation; awareness flows effortlessly around the psychic symbol);

8. Samâdhi (a state in which there is a complete absence of any mental modification; all that remains is awareness).

If you want to deepen and to start with the basics of yoga take a look at our ebook yoga for everyone.

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