Yoga Sutras

  • More than an Asana Practice

    Asana, the physical practice of “yoga”, is one of eight limbs of yoga.

    Where did these ideas come from?

    The ideas and practice of yoga are so ancient that one can only trace it back so far in history.  One of the early written record that was widespread is called the Yoga Sutra which dates back before 400 AD.  There is so much written on the Yoga Sutra, that I feel inadequate to briefly sum it up in my own words (although you can read the short paper I wrote as a final project for my yoga teacher training here) .  Instead, I will point you to resources of people who have studied the Yoga Sutra and encourage you to go read it for yourself.

  • Read the Blog

    I have started a series of blog posts called “Sutras and Scriptures”.  You can go to this first blog post and follow along as I continue to study, explore and write on this topic.

  • Join the Group

    There is a group of us reading How Yoga Works.  It not what you think it is by reading the title, scroll down the page to see a description. We are meeting once a month on a Google Hangout.  You are welcome to join us.  Here is the information page.

pdf of this pretty chart here


for Yoga Sutras

  • Arlington Center pdf

    I have used this translation of the Yoga Sutras as my basic resource.  It is a translation which includes the Sanskrit phrase, a word-by-word translation of all the parts and a succinct English translation of each phrase.  It allows me to connect more directly with the original text without filtering through a lot of commentary.

  • Swarmi J

    This website is very meaty with a ton of commentary and insights.  It might feel overwhelming or it might be just what you are looking for to advance your understanding.  There are graphics and videos that I find useful.  There are step-by-step explanations of meditation.  I have not studied this site thoroughly yet, but have found the commentary on the yoga sutras that I have read very enlightening.

    Here is a video overview that might be helpful.  I think I will need to view this many times as I study to really understand it.


  • Comparative Translation pdf

    You can download a  pdf here with a comparative translation of each yoga sutra by four different scholars.  I find this extraordinarily helpful and am astounded at the number of hours that went into making this chart by Dr. Miles Neale.  One of the scholars is the author of “How Yoga Works”.


Yoga Music and a Book

  • Deva Primal

    We used a mantra in class last Wednesday to get our breath even on our Suryas.  The artist is Deva Primal

    Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha is the title and it is a chant to remove obstacles.  The chant is repeated 108 times (which is a number of significance.  Do a google search if you are curious.)  It’s nice to play it as you get your practice started to settle your mind.

    Om Shreem Mahalakshmiyei Namaha is one by the same artist that my first teacher, Tung, introduced to me at the same time.  It is a chant for abundance.  He would often play these back to back as we did sun salutes at the beginning of our practice.

    And this is one of my favorites by Deva Premal called Og Namo… it starts with English words “The rain is pouring down like all the souls You send here” and talks about “coming home”. This is a good one during shavasana if your need something to calm your mind.  Listen to the words.  They are beautiful.

  • Ashana

    Another musician I like to listen to as I go into meditation (or just to rest) is Ashana.  Her album “Jewels of Silence” has some nice music.  The song Heart of Gaia is particularly relaxing to me.  There are crystal bowl vibrations in this music and I can feel the vibrations in my body.  I especially notice it when the music stops.  It’s like my body continues to vibrate for a bit.  I feel deeply rested and calm afterwards


    How Yoga Works

    A fascinating story by Michael Roach that teaches the nature of yoga but never explains a single pose. This book motivated me to want to master all the limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.  Here is information about a discussion group reading this book in 2018.  We use Google Hangout once a month to connect.

  • Learn a little Sanskrit

    Work to learn Sanskrit names of poses. It may seem odd to be asked to learn poses in another language. Why is it important? If you really don’t want to, it’s OK, but I think it’s cool. Why? Because this is a practice learned all over the world. I can meet someone from Argentina, Germany, France, China or Alabama. I might not understand their language, but if I go to an Ashtanga studio, I will know the poses because we all learn the same Sanskrit words. Sort of like learning the Latin words for plants or medical terms so people can work together cross linguistically.

  • Ashtanga Yoga Limbs 1 and 2

    The first two limbs (out of 8) of Ashtanga Yoga are the Yamas, Niyamas. Some people liken these to the Ten Commandments. As you focus on these during your Asana practice, it changes the way you think about what you are doing with your body and how your experience on the yoga mat is like your life.

    • The 5 Yamas are:
      -Satya: truthfulness
      -Asteya: non-strealing
      -Bramacharya: focus energy toward the divine
      -Aparigraha: greedlessness
    • The 5 Niyamas are:
      -Saucha: purity
      -Santosha: contentment
      -Tapas: purifying practices
      -Svadhyaya: self study and the study of sacred texts
      -Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender to the divine

    There is a lot written out there on the Yamas and Niyamas. Under the “About Yoga” tab you can find a paper I wrote for my yoga teacher training where I compare them to the Ten Commandments. Do a Google search under these words and you will come up with plenty to study and hopefully you will feel motivated to look at ways to gently train your mind to move toward these ideals

    Try this: Pick one of the Yamas or Niyamas to focus on during your asana practice and watch your mind. For example, if you choose Ahimsa (non-harming), watch if you tend to push too hard in a stretch that may lead to injury. Or, do you find yourself thinking “I’m not as good at this as that person.” Or, “That person thinks they are so hot. What a show-off.” Do you see how these kinds of actions or thoughts lead away from Ahimsa? Next practice, try a different Yama or Niyama to focus on until you have had a practice with all 10.