From The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, translated from the Sanskrit by S. Prabhavananda and C. Isherwood. The sutras date from between the fourth century B.C and the fourth century A.D. This is the earliest extant text we have about the practice of yoga.

Here are some excerpts from the first two chapters. The last two chapters fall into somewhat less useful considerations about the powers attained by the yogi (walking on water, levitation, etc.) and the laws of karma.

Chapter 1: Yoga and its Aims

2. Yoga is the control of thought-waves in the mind.
4. At other times, when he is not in the state of yoga, man remains identified with the thought-waves in the mind.
15. Non-attachment is self-mastery; it is freedom from desire for what is seen or heard.
16. When, through knowledge of the Atman, one ceases to desire any manifestation of Nature, then that is the highest kind of non-attachment.
17. Concentration upon a single object may reach four stages: examination, discrimination, joyful peace and simple awareness of individuality.
18. The other kind of consciousness is that in which the consciousness contains no object – only subconscious impressions, which are like burnt seeds. It is attained by constantly checking the thought-waves through the practice of non-attachment.
19. When such concentration is not accompanied by non-attachment, and ignorance therefore remains, the aspirant will reach the state of the disincarnate gods or become merged in the forces of Nature.
23. Concentration may also be attained through devotion to Ishwara [the creator god].
27. The word which expresses Him is OM.
28. This word must be repeated with meditation upon its meaning.
33. Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked.
34. The mind may also be calmed by expulsion and retention of the breath.

Chapter 2: Yoga and its Practice

1. Austerity, study, and the dedication of the fruits of one’s work to God: these are the preliminary steps toward yoga.
2. Thus we may cultivate the power of concentration and remove the obstacles to enlightenment which cause all our sufferings.
7. Attachment is that which dwells upon pleasure.
8. Aversion is that which dwells upon pain.
29. The eight limbs of yoga are: the various forms of abstention from evil-doing (yama), the various observances (niyamas), posture (asana), control of the breath (pranayama), withdrawal of the mind from sense objects (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and absorption in the Atman (samadhi).
33. To be free from thoughts that distract from yoga, thoughts of an opposite kind must be cultivated.
46. Posture (asana) is to be seated in a position which is firm but relaxed.
49. After mastering posture, one must practice control of the prana by stopping the motions of inhalation and exhalation.
52. As a result of this, the covering of the Inner Light is removed.
53. The mind gains the power of concentration (dharana).
54. When the mind is withdrawn from sense-objects, the sense-organs also withdraw themselves from their respective objects and thus are said to imitate the mind. This is known as pratyahara.
55. Thence arises complete mastery over the senses.


3 Comments to “yoga”

  1. yoga is a fascinating practice – both for its physical effects and non-physical ones. It can help tame the mind, push us into higher spiritual states. A gift from the east.


  2. I agree that yoga is an amazing tool/exercise for the mind and body and I enjoy meditating on the sutras very much. I found it interesting in my reading of Yoga Mala by Pattabi Jois, that just as other forms of religiousity the practice of yoga entails many complicated rules regading food and sex. For one, in order to achieve/satisfy the limbs of yoga one must only have sex at night when the breathing is heavier from the left nostril than from the right. That’s for men. Women may have sex between the 4th and the 6th day of their menstrual cycle. Of course, if this were observed, we would definitely not have the overpopulation problem that we currently do 🙂

  3. Yes, GGW, yoga is a fascinating art!

    Thanks for the small insight to what looks like a very interesting read on yoga.


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