“Where there is yoga, there is prosperity and bliss with freedom.” – B.K.S Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
In the middle of the cold Montreal winter, gathered in a small room in the United Yoga Montreal studio, six students were carefully listening to the deep voice of Len Blum as he was transmitting one of the most ancient knowledge of the world: the Yoga Sutras. Despite the darkness and the cold outside, the room was full of light and warmth. We were into some deep study, a study of life, and I never felt that passionnate about learning something. It was resonating in every part of my body, and my mind was absorbing every word, trying to make sense of all that precious knowledge resonating with my own experience.
The Yoga Sutras
More than 2500 years ago, Patanjali was defining the foundation principles of yoga, which became what a lot of people call nowadays the «bible» of yoga. I don’t, since I want it to be very clear that yoga is for everyone, no matter what skin color you have, your gender or what religion you belong to. And this is what shows in a way the Yoga Sutras’ value: this knowledge has been transmitted over centuries and even milleniums without any attachment to a particular religion.
If you are interested in success, self-development and on becoming happier and more satisfied in life, I firmly believe you will find everything in the study of the Yoga Sutras. Every sutra is concise but precise, and together, the 196 cover all aspects of life, guiding the aspirant (sadhaka) towards the full comprehension of his own real nature and eventually total freedom.
The Yoga Sutras are divided in four chapters: Samadhi pada (on contemplation), Sadhana pada (on practice), Vibhuti pada (on properties and powers), and Kaivalya pada (on emancipation and freedom). My teacher recommand you read them one after the other, always starting back at the beginning, in the order in which they have been written, giving the sadhaka a more precise comprehension of them, moving on to the next sutra only when the studied sutra is fully understand in one’s practice.
“Like pearls on a thread, the Yoga Sutras form a precious necklace, a diadem of illuminative wisdom.” – B.K.S Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of PatanjaliThe Teaching of the Yoga Sutras
Teaching the Yoga Sutras
In ancient times, knowledge used to be transmitted orally. It is still the case today in some cultures, but the majority of societies have chosen to write down their precious knowledge in order to assure that it wouldn’t be lost. Therefore, nowadays, we have to depend upon written sources to get access to our history, instead of being able to get our knowledge from our teacher.
I got lucky: I found a true teacher, a master, who had devoted a full year of his life only reading the Yoga Sutras and had kept studying them since then, and who was willing to share his experience of the sutras, just like teachers would do in the ancient times, interpreting them with his very own experience.
Len had read the translation of the Yoga Sutras given by B.K.S Iyengar, who demystified them in his book Light on the Yoga Sutras. After having been asked by pupils and friends for a simple and clear translation of the Sutras, Iyengar got to work and proposed us not only his translation of the valuable principles, but also his explanatory comments on them. However, there is plenty of room for interpretation, based on your personal experience off and on the mat.
My Light on the Yoga Sutras
That’s what I am about to do. Through Len’s classes, I got to study some of the sutras from the first and second chapters. I was relying mostly on his teaching to get introduced to and reflect on the sutras, sometimes referring to B.K.S Iyengar’s book for more information, but never really digging further. I want to give it a try now.
My inspiration is to, just like Len did, read the yoga sutras slowly, sharing my interpretation and thoughts on each of them with you. As a devoted student, I will put effort and self-discipline into my work, but as a sadhaka myself, and as a neophyte to the sanskrit language, this will be a very interesting process.
I don’t have the experience or the knowledge that B.K.S Iyengar and Len have. However, I have the firm conviction that the Yoga Sutras are valuable and precious knowledge that should be transmitted into the 21st century and reach more and more people, and that is part of my mission to do so, trying to make it accessible to us, milleniums.
I will always provide the sutra in sanskrit, with the translation proposed by B.K.S Iyengar, then share with you my interpretation and how I apply it to my daily life. You will therefore be able to also make sense of it through your own experience and put it in use the way you wish to.
“Yoga is an art, a science, and a philosophy. It touches the life of man at every level, physical, mental, and spiritual. It is a practical method for making one’s life purposeful, useful and noble.” – B.K.S Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
I don’t know yet where this reading will take us. We’ll see, shall we?
To learn more about the Yoga Sutras, three books I recommand you read
B.K.S Iyengar – Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
B.K.S Iyengar – Light on Yoga
B.K.S Iyengar – Yoga Wisdom and Practice