Sutras 1.1 – 1.3

In a short sentence, sutras 1.1 – 1.3 explain that if you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, like water in a bucket, then you will experience yoga. Let’s dive deeper:

Sutra 1.1 –  Yoga is Now. Yoga is the unification of the mind, body, and soul. It means to “yolk.” What this sutra means to me is that at any given moment, I have an opportunity to become centered.

Sutra 1.2 – Have you ever heard the phrase, “monkey mind?” This is the Buddhist’s way of explaining the constant thoughts that run through our minds. A lot of the time, these thoughts are subconscious and we are completely unaware that we are thinking these thoughts. In Patanjali’s sutras, he has a phrase that describes what we must do about it: Yogas Citta-Vritti-Nirodhah or the process of stilling the churnings of the mind stuff. It is the second sutra in book one, and a very important sutra. As a teacher, it is important that I teach this sutra to my students.

Sutra 1.3 – This sutra defines your role in this process. You are the Seer; the true witness to your own self and your thoughts or the “monkey mind.” In order to understand yourself, you must learn to be quite in the mind. Yoga is the way to stilling your mind and it includes many types of practices which the following sutras will begin to define.

Sutras 1.4 – 1.11

There are 5 activities in the mind that cause vrttis or waves/fluctuations in your mind. There is a positive and negative side to these activities (two sides to the coin. You can also view this as painful or painless). It is up to you as the person to observe and monitor the vrttis or else the mind can overpower you, sending you into a place of despair and disillusion.

Sutra 1.4 – I AMness. Everyone identifies with something or as someone and uses labels to do so. For example “I am a tall man who is an artist” therefore you are that. Your reality is based on the perception you have of yourself and the world around you. The awareness you have essentially takes on the patterns or fluctuations of your mind. These are the vrittis and you want to observe to know whether they are real or not. Yoga offers an opportunity to re-evaluate, re-form, self-adjust and practice self-control.

Sutra 1.5 – There are 5 levels of vrittis or levels of consciousness. They are grouped into two categories: painful or painless thoughts.  You can also think of them as selfish or selfless thoughts.

Sutra 1.6 – The 5 levels

  1. Right Perception or Truth
  2. Misconception or Error
  3. Conceptualization or Verbal Delusion
  4. Sleep
  5. Memory (Remembering)

Sutra 1.7 – Here he explains how right perception or right knowledge occurs. Direct knowledge from trusted sources like texts and scriptures, having trusted teachers at your disposal or having the correct perception. Sensory input or intuition is also a way to see the truth.

Sutra 1.8 – Misconception or misunderstandings. A great example of this is the story of the man who saw a coiled rope down a long dark road. In his mind, it is a snake and the fears overwhelmed him. Instead of investigating to know for certain that what he thought he saw was real, he chose to avoid that path altogether, never reaching the destination.

Sutra 1.9 – Conceptualization begins when you hear someone else say something. The stories you hear may not always be the truth. They can be conceptualizations of the person telling another story of a conceptualization. Propaganda or the news are a perfect example of how you must always question what you hear.

Sutra 1.10 – When you sleep, it is important to remember that you are still thinking. Dreams and subconscious thoughts may be giving you tidbits of knowledge that can lead you towards the truth.

Sutra 1.11 – Memory is based on true experiences. These experiences can give you right knowledge in order to make quick and true judgments. This is a great opportunity to point out the other side of the coin. As you might have guessed, it is also important to understand that sometimes, experiences can lead you to misjudge a situation.

Sutras 1.12 – 1.16

In summary, you must practice. There are 5 principles of practice to help guide you in the process. Ideally, strive to be unattached from the results but that is the hard part because nothing is linear and black and white. There are shades of grey and circles.

Sutras 1.17 – 1.23

These are my favorite so far! “A yogi’s guide to practical meditation” is how I would best describe this block of sutras. These sutras help to clarify the 4 steps to Samadhi or “a blissful state of mind.” These steps serve as a comprehensible guide for the average person to practice meditation with the goal of achieving samadhi or a state of bliss. I like the metaphor of learning to swim. Step by step, how do you learn to swim? If you consider this, you will see that learning to swim is not going from standing outside the pool area to being in the deep end. You must take steps. It’s the same for learning to meditate.

Sutra 1.20 is a highlight for me since it offers the methods to stay on track. It also explains that anyone can do it. Meditation and moments of Samadhi are not just for the divinely gifted! What a sigh of relief.

Each day, when you take a moment to meditate, Patanjali asks us to employ faith, energy, mindfulness, focus, and a clear understanding with the addition of patience and detachment from the results. This is the effective way to stay on track for consistent meditation.

Sutras 1.24 – 1.29

This is a particularly interesting section of Book 1. In here, Patanjali defines his version of God. God is someone who is not affected by attachment, therefore, is not attached to actions and the fruits of the actions. God has no I-Am-Ness so God is not afflicted by darkness. God supersedes gurus and he is all knowing.

In previous sutras, Patanjali explains the benefits of surrendering to God, but how do we get closer? The answers expressed were that of surrender, devotion, and sound.

Sutras 27-29 share the story of OM or AUM, the sound of God and Universe. Chanting OM has many positive benefits. To name a couple, it clears the mind and creates energy through vibration. Repeating OM encourages contemplation of God, which therefore as Patanjali mentions, brings you closer to the Devine. Through this practice of chanting OM, self-realization will occur because obstacles in the mind begin to disappear creating an opportunity to see the true self. When I practice AUM, I feel a sense of harmony, oneness and a feeling of being centered from within. I particularly enjoy practicing this chant while in a yoga class, where I am surrounded by students of yoga who also  enjoy chanting AUM. There is nothing like the vibrations of everyone one in the room. It can be moving!

When I practice chanting AUM, I get a sense of harmony, oneness and a feeling of being centered from within. I particularly enjoy practicing this chant while in a yoga class, where I am surrounded by students of yoga who also  enjoy chanting AUM. There is nothing like communal the vibrations of everyone one in the room. It can be moving!

To practice chanting AUM on your own, begin by opening the mouth to say A, as in “ahh.” Then funnel the lips together into an O shape to say U like “oooh.” Finish by bringing the lips together to say M like “mmmm.” A-U-M, is considered the seed sound, which is where all other sounds originate from.  A is for

A – represents creation

U- represents the universe

M- represents transformity and connectedness


Sutras 1.30 – 1.32

This section is only 4 sutras long, but don’t let that deceive you! There is so much to discuss! This section focuses on the obstacles and symptoms of the obstacles that hinder us from achieving and maintaining a clear state of mind. In order to best prepare yourself for understanding how sutras 1.30-1.33 are applied, please re-read the post on 1.24-1.29.

Patanjali explains how to experience self-realization and then goes on to say that of course there will be many obstacles in the way that will make the individual process more challenging.

Sutra 1.30 explains that there are 9 obstacles, which can also be described as distractions. These 9 obstacles have a counter balance to them which I will add in parenthesis next to each obstacle. Knowing how to counter balance each obstacle really helps me to understand the meaning of each obstacle and what can be done to overcome each.

1) Sickness or disease (Health/Ayurveda)

2) Dullness (Goals)

3) Doubt (Faith)

4) Carelessness (Humility)

5) Laziness (Enthusiasm)

6) Sensuality or over consumption (Contentment)

7) False Teachers (Cross referencing)

8) Losing focus (Stamina)

9) Regression or inability to stay at the goal (Hope)

Sutra 1.31 goes deeper to explain that these obstacles have symptoms that we experience. These are the 4 symptoms:

1) Pain and misery (Clarity)

2) Despair (Hope)

3) Disturbed body (Steadiness)

4) Unsteady breath (Pranayama)

These symptoms are kept at bay with “proper conditioning like right diet, exercise and proper rest.” We discussed that these symptoms, though seemingly all negative, are not always avoidable. Sometimes these symptoms can even be enjoyable! Take the breath or symptom #4 for example. How many occurrences can you think of where your breath changes but it is for a good reason (maybe at a scary theme park or during intimacy for example)? Another one is symptom #3. Trembling is considered disturbance of the body. How often do you find yourself trembling in your yoga practice because you are at your sweet and steady place? These are all things to be considered.

Sutra 1.32 explains the best way to overcome these obstacles; one pointed concentration or in other words, a goal! The goal we use as an example of this is wanting to sing publicly. Have perseverance and concentrate on the steps you need to take to singing in public. Believe in yourself with unwavering faith and stay true to your vision. It makes no sense to focus on one thing to then give up too soon. “The reason why you want to have one-pointedness concentration is to make the mind clear so that you can transcend it.”

How do you have one-pointedness concentration you ask? Patanjali gives 7 different ways that you can use. Patanjali came up with these methods so that there would be something for everyone. You can explore each method until you find the one that suits you and your style.


Sutras 1.33 – 1.39

1.33 covers the 4 fold remedy, which is a tactic used in keeping the mind undisturbed. Also called the 4 keys and 4 locks. 1.33 is considered one of the most important sutras! It states that if you cultivate an attitude of friendliness toward the happy, compassion toward the unhappy, delight toward the virtuous and disregard for the non-virtuous, you will remain calm. Then we get into more tactics on how to overcome obstacles I the mind. Here we have 5 ways:

With that said, you are probably wondering how to do that exactly. Fortunately, Patanjali offers more tactics on how to overcome the obstacles of the mind. Here we have 5 ways:

1 -Sutra 1.34 starts to discuss pranayama breathing to stay calm. This is the best tool to use when learning how to control the turnings of the mind. Breath is the gateway to staying with the one-pointedness attention. A yoga practice offers an opportunity to practice Ujayii. Watching the breath as you move through increasingly challenging postures can help clear the mind and keep you undistracted while you practice. Alternatively, there are other types of pranayama breathing styles one can practice while meditating.

2- Sutra 1.35 concentrate on more subtle sensations. A great example of this can be focusing on the temperature of the air passing through the nostrils, or taking the gaze to the tip of your finger while in a standing posture like Virabhadrasana 2.

3- Sutra 1.36 focusing on your inner light. Cultivating inner power, strength, and supreme light within. Start by imagining these things and then later it becomes reality. Always remember, You Are Divine!!

4 – Sutra 1.37 concentrate on a higher power or greater mind: teachers and/or godly figures, mentors or parents.

5 – Sutra 1.38 concentrations on visions, dreams, intuitions or the thoughts in a clear mind….this cultivates Sattvic mind. Sattvic means clear and calm. I recently visited the Integratron in Joshua Tree, California. This was the perfect place to set intentions and visualize my dreams during the most epic sound bath I have ever experienced! Talk about being aligned with the divine and vibrating at my highest levels!

If all else fails!! You have sutra 1.39.. if none of the above works for you, find an option that allows you to experience joy with yourself and relaxation of your mind. Walking, running, gardening, hiking, swimming….the options are custom to you and endless depending on the individual. Thanks Patanjali for recognizing this and making mention of this option in the book!

Sutras 1.40 – 1.51

I would like to preface this section by suggesting that you revisit sutras 1.17-1.19. These 3 sutras discuss the 4 pillars of Samadhi and they introduce you to 1.40-1.51, which are all about the different layers of Samadhi. Needless to say, it would be a good idea to re-read 17-19.

Sutra 1.40 defines the experiences of samadhi. As one begins to experience this type of heightened concentration, they are able to focus on something as small as an atom to something as large as the universe. It becomes easy for you to meditate on ANYTHING.

Sutra 1.41 Your mind is as clear as a diamond when you are able to maintain a clear and calm state during meditation. A mind that is clear can reflect anything, so in a way, you will reflect and attract the same positivity in the world. All your hard work is rewarded this way. “This is the culmination of Samadhi.”

The next few sutras explain the different types of Samadhi.

Sutra 1.42 – Layer 1: Samadhi on an object where the name, it’s form and your understanding of those things are the same. An example of this is the shape of a cross. The word Cross, the shape of said Cross and the knowledge of the Cross is your Samadhi.

Sutra 1.43 – Layer 2: Samadhi on the meaning of the object. This is a deeper layer than 1.42. The word, shape and knowledge become obsolete and you are now consumed in a feeling of bliss and euphoria by the meaning of the cross.

Sutra 1.44 – This sutra means that 1.42 and 1.43 have even deeper layers to them. They have layers that go even further beyond the object or meaning and can be reflective or non-reflective. (My mind really starts to check out here, haha). Pandit explains on that after you have achieved focus on the object (1.42) and then focus on the meaning of the object (1.43), you will then start to experience more subtle concentrations there afterwards (1.44). Once you have experienced this, you go on to experience the next sutra.

Sutra 1.45 The highest form of meditation by experiencing a primal force called Prakrti or the building blocks of yourself or your truest self. A great example of this is exploring our sorrows and pain to find the keys and solutions to healing those sorrows. We have the opportunity here to meditate on our own self-nature; mediation on our patterns (samskaras), histories and thoughts in order to heal ourselves. This is a very powerful place to be!

Sutra 1.46 Although we can achieve this high form of meditation, a warning from Patanjali that our seeds of past impressions are still within.

Sutra 1.47 I turned to Pandit to help me explain this one well. Essentially he says, to get past those obstacles, you must further your purification of the mind by practising a meditation that transcends thought all together so that the supreme self will shine through. (How the…???)

Sutra 1.48 Pandit continues by explaining that when the supreme self is shining through, there in lies intuitive wisdom that is self-sustaining.

Sutra 1.49 Explained by Pandit once again, the content of this intuitive wisdom is so different and unique from any scripture or text that it is extraordinary and probably deeply rooted and connected with God. You have knowledge that is so special that you do not need to cross check it with scripts or sages. You are this perfect reflection of God.

Sutra 1.50. This knowledge and subtle impressions cancel out all your samskaras or mental obstacles like past impressions or old memories left imprinted on the mind.

Sutra 1.51 This is even a step beyond the last sutra. This is losing one’s self in the transcendental divine self. You are not afraid of death of self…ego, or anything that will no longer be you in the mortal sense.

In the practical sense, let’s explain this process like so: Take a bad habit that you want to change. Meditate on it regularly with intent to change it. Explore where that habit came from and why it currently exists. Go so deep within yourself to really understand it. You understand it so well that you now have this complete, extraordinary understanding of it! You can now realize the solution to this and cancel out the bad habit by replacing it with a new one that is more serving of you in your current life.


Sutras 2.1

Book 2 or Chapter 2 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are the keys to understanding Yoga in practice! This chapter is called Sadhana Pada or Portion on Practice. It is also translated as Personal Spiritual Practice (Sadhana) Chapter (Padah).

Right off the bat, I feel like these sutras will be much more practical for me to apply in my life. At a quick glance of the sutras, I can see mention of self-care practices like asana for example, to take care of the physical body. I also see mention of how to interact with the external world like being kind and non-judgmental of those around us.

Book 1 has been completely enlightening since it discusses the ultimate goal of yoga practice; meditation and transcendence of the mind by stilling the fluctuations. Though this is true, it takes a lot more energy for me to try and understand the concepts that are presented.

Sutra 2.1 – This sutra introduces us to a type of yoga practice called Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga is a well-rounded style of yoga practice and it is translated as the Yoga of Action. It has three components to it; Tapas, Svadhyaya and Isvara Pranidhana.

  • Tapas – Meaning to heat. Tapas are a purification of the body and mind through practices that heat the body internally and create energy to clean out toxins and separate the pure from the impure. Asana is a great example of a type of practice that heats the body internally. When you move through the poses and link your breath with movement, you are generating heat in the body. I like the example of gold to understand this: The more you heat the metal, the more pure the gold will become. Pranayama or breathing exercises purify the lungs. Both asana and pranayama purify the mind to ready it for meditation, which purifies the soul. Tapas is also self-discipline.  Practicing asana regularly and safely with conviction trains the mind to steady itself. This is the action of connecting the mind with the body.
  • Svadhyaya – Meaning self-study. Yoga practice in action will offer you a “think tank” for you to explore yourself and all your habits; good and bad. I find out all kinds of things that are interesting about myself during my practice. It has taken a long time, but I’ve learned that I am a perfectionist and have been guilty of missing out on joy in life because I have such high standards and expectations of myself. I’ve also learned that happiness was an internal journey instead of an external journey. All the answers were within me and they had been there all along. It took a rectangular piece of plastic called a yoga mat and a string of interesting yoga poses for me to discover that but none the less, it has been one of the best discoveries in my life so far and I feel freer because of it. Hatha, another name for a type of yoga practice, brings harmony to the body and mind. I have experienced this harmony. In my journey, I’ve found that harmony is fleeting and we have to strive to keep the balance in our lives. Harmony is impermanent, but just to experience it was enough to keep me hooked on yoga.
  • Isvara Pranidhana – Meaning surrender and devotion (to something higher). Traditionally it means “surrender to God.” This is another important aspect of finding balance in the body and mind. We are not outer worldly creatures. We are human and have daily struggles and pain that we must overcome. Faith is something I’ve come to accept as unattachment to results or fruits of my labor. A great example of this is wanting to do Visvamitrasana. I had been practicing the actions of attaining this pose for a long time and then found that I had injured myself very badly in the process. I’m struggling with detaching myself from the desire to fit my body into that shape. Through surrender, I choose to believe that there are higher and more important reasons other than my body type, for why I had to experience injury instead of accomplishment.

Can you see how all three of these tie in together? Kriya yoga is a wonderful way to practice self-care, discipline and the actions towards moving towards your highest form of self all while being unattached from any results or fruits of the labors. This ultimately brings harmony to mind and body.

I happened to be at the beach last weekend so, I used the example of surfing to help me understand Kriya Yoga. Say I want to surf like those I see out in the water. I make the decision to learn so I go out and buy a surfboard and wetsuit. I make a schedule for myself for when I will surf during the week. I dedicate myself to the practice and even do drill exercises to help strengthen my body. I study surfer’s techniques, read surfer magazines and find online resources that will help me learn about the weather patterns of the ocean. While surfing, I experience challenges and crash a lot. I find it hard to even stay on the board sometimes but I keep steady in my practice of “going surfing”. I accept that there are elements of surfing that I cannot control and elements that I can. I have faith in the practice and devote as much time to it as needed so that I will one day stand up and reap the benefits of all my hard work. I also accept that maybe I will never surf like Kelly Slater or some of the other pro surfers who are rippin’ it on waves in Hawaii, but if I can stand up on my board and get a few good, long rides in one day, then I will be satisfied and grateful for the experience.

You can then repeat the process by setting a new goal