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There’s so much more to yoga than what happens on the mat. When you need a little push in the right direction or a fresh perspective, the Yoga Sutra is your guidebook for living with intention. We handpicked 30 essential sutras to return to again and again.
Atha yoga anushasanam
Now, the teachings of yoga.
—Yoga Sutra I.1
Yoga citta vritti nirodhah
Yoga is the ending of disturbances of the mind.
—Yoga Sutra I.2
Tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam
As a result of yoga or sustained, focused attention, the Self, or Seer, is firmly established in its own form, and we act from a place from our own true, authentic Self.
—Yoga Sutra I.3
Vrttayah pancatayyah klistaklistah pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smrtayah
There are five functions or activities of the mind, which can either cause us problems or not. They are: correct perception, misunderstanding, imagination, deep sleep, and memory.
—Yoga Sutra I.5–6
See also The Five States of Mind
Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah
In order to achieve a state of yoga, one must develop both practice and detachment.
—Yoga Sutra I.12
See also Make the Space for Your Practice
Tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa
Effort toward steadiness of mind is practice.
—Yoga Sutra I.13
Sa tu dirgha kala nairantarya satkara adara asevita drdha bhumih
To achieve a strong foundation in our practice, we must practice over a long time, without interruption, believing in it and looking forward to it, with an attitude of service.
—Yoga Sutra I.14
Vitarka vicara ananda asmitarupa anugamat samprajnatah
In order to reach a state of complete understanding, we must go through a process that progresses from a superficial understanding to increasingly greater refinement and subtlety of comprehension, until our understanding becomes fully integrated and total.
—Yoga Sutra I.17
See also Slow Down + Take Time to Learn
Shraddha virya smrti samadhi prajna purvakah itaresham
For those of us who were not born into states of higher consciousness or knowing, we must cultivate self-confidence and conviction to help us maintain our persistence and strength, and to remember our direction so that we may attain our goal of a focused mind and clear perception.
—Yoga Sutra I.20
See also Consciousness in Motion: Vinyasa
Isvara pranidhanat va
[Samadhi is attained] through complete and total surrender to a higher power.
—Yoga Sutra I.23
See also Tap Your Higher Power
Taj japas tad artha bhavanam
The recitation of that [syllable , OM] [leads to] the contemplation of its meaning.
—Yoga Sutra I.28
See also Intro to Chanting, Mantra, and Japa
Tatah pratyakcetanadhigamah api antarayabhavas ca
Then, the inner consciousness is revealed, we come to know the true Self, and our obstacles are reduced.
—Yoga Sutra I.29
Maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatah citta prasadanam
By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.
—Yoga Sutra I.33
Pracchardana vidharanabhyam va pranasya
Or that calm is retained by the controlled exhalation and retention of the breath.
—Yoga Sutra I.34
Visoka va jyotismati
Or, [by concentrating on] the light within, which is free from all suffering and sorrow.
—Yoga Sutra I.36
See also Connect with Your Inner Spark
Anityasuci dhkhanatmasu nitya suci sukhatmakhyatir avidya
Ignorance is regarding the impermanent as the permanent, the impure as pure, the painful as pleasant, and the non-Self as the Self.
—Yoga Sutra II.5
Drgdarsana saktyoh ekatmata iva asmita
False identification is confusing the nature of the seer or Self with the nature of the instrument of perception. In other words, false identification happens when we mistake the mind, body, or senses for the true Self.
—Yoga Sutra II.6
See also How to See Your True Self
Parinama tapa samskara duhkhaih guna vrtti virodhaccha duhkham evam sarvam vivekinah
Change, longing, habits, and the activity of the gunas can all cause us suffering. In fact, even the wise suffer, for suffering is everywhere.
—Yoga Sutra II.15
Heyam duhkham anagatam
Prevent the suffering that is yet to come.
—Yoga Sutra II.16
See also Reduce Suffering: How Yoga Heals
Drashtr drshyayoh samyogo heya hetuh
The cause of our suffering is the inability to distinguish between what is the truth (what perceives) and what appears to be the truth (what is perceived).
—Yoga Sutra II.17
Sva svami saktyoh svarupa upalabdhi hetuh samyogah
The inability to discern between the temporary, fluctuating mind and our own true Self, which is eternal, is the cause of our suffering, yet this suffering provides us with the opportunity to make this distinction and to learn and grow from it, by understanding the true nature of each.
—Yoga Sutra II.23
Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam
When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of.
—Yoga Sutra II.33
Samtosad anuttamah sukhalabha
From contentment, incomparable happiness is obtained.
—Yoga Sutra II.42
Sthira sukham asanam
Seated posture should be steady and comfortable.
—Yoga Sutra II.46
Thereafter [making a posture firm and comfortable], one is undisturbed by dualities.
—Yoga Sutra II.48
Tatah ksiyate prakasavaranam
As its result, the veil over the inner Light is destroyed.
—Yoga Sutra II.52
Sarvarthataikagratayoh ksyayodayau cittasya samadhiparinamah
When there is a decline in distractedness and appearance of one-pointedness, then comes samadhi parinamah (development in samadhi).
—Yoga Sutra III.11
Samskara saksat karanat purvajati jnanam
Through sustained focus and meditation on our patterns, habits, and conditioning, we gain knowledge and understanding of our past and of how we can change the patterns that aren’t serving us to live more freely and fully.
—Yoga Sutra III.18
See also Break Bad Habits Patanjali’s Way
Hrdaye citta samvit
By samyama on the heart, knowledge of the mind is obtained.
—Yoga Sutra III.36
Vastu samye citta bhedat tayor vibhaktah panthah
Due to differences in various minds, perception of even the same object may vary.
—Yoga Sutra IV.15
To learn more: Yoga Journal co-founder Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, and her daughter, Lizzie Lasater, have partnered with YJ to bring you a six-week interactive online course on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Through study of this fundamental text, the Lasaters, with more than 50 years of combined teaching experience, will support you in deepening your practice and broadening your understanding of yoga. Sign up now for a transformative journey to learn, practice, and live the Sutra.