Yoga Lingo

What is Sutra? - Yoga Sanskrit terms

Posted on 2019-02-12

A sutra is a short verse or scripture, found within the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism. The term is a Sanskrit word which translates as ‘code,’ ‘note,’ or ‘sacred thread.’ As well as offering guidance and information, they can also be used within chanting or meditation. Some practitioners will even use the sutras as a guide to life. Perhaps the most famous examples of sutras are the Yoga Sutras.

The Yoga Sutras are a collection of sutras describing the philosophy of yoga, and its applied practice. Written by Sage Pantanjali, many individuals will use them for advice and guidance in everyday life. While little is known about the creator, the text is believed to have been written over 1700 years ago and was designed as a comprehensive guide and explanation to the practice and philosophy of yoga. It is made up of 195 sutras, all contained within four chapters.

The Yoga Sutras are a core part of the practice of yoga for many practitioners. They will meditate on and chant the sutras in Sanskrit during their training, as well as using the scriptures as a form of guidance and instruction on how to live day to day. The sutras are brief, and easy to memorize, allowing them to be accessible whenever required.

The Yoga Sutras contain eight main ideas:

1.Yamas: The ethical rules of Hinduism, which are moral imperatives. The five yamas are:

  • Ahimsa - nonviolence, and not harming living beings

  • Satya - truthfulness, non-falsehood

  • Asteya - non-stealing

  • Brahmacharya - chastity, marital fidelity

  • Aparigraha - non-avarice

2. Niyama: The virtuous habits, behaviors, and observances - the ‘dos’ of Hinduism. The niyamas are:

  • Sauca - purity, clearness of mind, speech, and body

  • Santosa - contentment, acceptance of others and circumstances as they are

  • Tapas - persistence, and austerity

  • Svashyaya – the study of self

  • Isvarapranidhana – the study of the Ishvara

3.Asana: a posture held for some time

4.Prānāyāma: consciously observing the breath

5.Pratyāhāra: drawing on one's awareness

6.Dhāranā: concentration, introspection

7.Dhyāna: contemplation

8.Samādhi: oneness with the subject of meditation

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