Every few thousand years, a good book comes along:
Before written language, teachings were passed to the next generation by the chanting and memorization of short soundbites called sutras. Sutra means a thread, it's where our word suture comes from.
The teachings were sacred, secret, and for the priviledged classes.
Patanjali, often called the father of classical yoga was the first known person to gather the knowledge of Yoga and write it down, penning The Yoga Sutras over two thousand years ago. I can imagine at the time this was quite blasphemous, to break from tradition and write down the secret teachings. He was a radical – our kind of guy.
Now anyone could learn the secrets of Yoga and liberate themselves.
The sutras can be cryptic, and were meant to be 'unpacked' through commentary by a teacher. In the practice of Swadyaya, we play detective, excavating the meaning of the sutra within the context of our own lives.
As your practice and understanding of yourself evolves, your understanding of the Sutras evolves. In essence, you weave these threads of wisdom into your practice, using them to help navigate your life.
YS II.35 AHIMSA PRATISTHAYAM TAT SAMNIDHAU VAIRA TYAGAH
Originally written in Sanskrit, there are many translations to choose from. When researching a sutra, I often have many translations open, gleaning an understanding from bits of each commentary.
A good translation to start with is: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda. it is used in many teacher trainings, is well indexed, and has many stories to draw from. I love my tattered, drawn in, dog-eared copy that has accompanied me all over the world.
My current favorite is from Edwin Bryant: The Yoga Sutras of PataÃ±jali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary
Nischala Joy Devi brings a feminine slant to the Sutras: The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman's Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras
Chip Hartranft from the Arlington Center: The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation with Commentary
A Buddhist view from Geshe Michael Roach and Christie Mcnally: The Essential Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga
Desikachar: The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice
Georg Feuerstein: The Yoga-Sutra of Patañjali:
To learn how to chant the Sutras, check out Manorma's disc: Yoga Sutra Of Patanjali
To hear them, check out this video of Krishnamacharya at 50 years old:
If you add just one book to your library this year, make it a copy of the Yoga Sutras, the original 'self help' book.
What's your favorite sutra, or translation? Click the add comment link to add yours to the list.
Om Shanti, I'll see you in class.