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The Yoga Sutras: A Short Explanation

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Yoga Sutras

( yoga: union | sutras: aphorisms or principles )

The Yoga Sutras are a collection of guides or aphorisms to lead a life based on the principles of yoga. Written by Patanjali, this short and concise work outlines the art and science of yoga as a meditation and path to self-realization. It is, put simply, a map for your journey to achieving the best possible self. This is a self that is aware, balanced, happy, and at peace.

One of the topics Patanjali covers is the 8 Limb Path of Yoga. These are the steps to achieve what some might refer to as enlightenment, pure wisdom, or a mind that is at peace and happy. It’s the elimination of unnecessary distractions, so you can clearly see your way through life.

The 8 Paths

  • 5 Yamas: self-regulation
  • 5 Niyamas: self-training
  • Asana: posture
  • Pranayama: breath expansion
  • Pratyahara: looking inward or drawing the senses inward
  • Dharana: concentration
  • Dhyana: meditation
  • Samadhi: state of complete concentration

5 Yamas


  • Ahimsa: non-violence
  • Satya: honesty
  • Asteya: non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya: live in the path of the universe | true reality | God
  • Aparigraha: non-possessiveness

5 Niyamas


  • Shaucha: purity of mind and body
  • Santosha: contentment
  • Tapah: training the senses
  • Svadhyaya: self-study | self-reflection
  • Ishvara Pranidhana [ Ishvara: universe | true reality | God ] [ Pranidhana: surrender ]

The asanas and pranayama are what physical yoga classes focus on, but most teacher trainings deal with the 5 yamas and 5 niyamas as well.

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