The yoga sūtras of Patañjali is one of the seminal works on yoga, especially if we are keen on a structured study of Yoga off the mat! It consists of 196 rather cryptic aphorisms or terse statements, arranged in four chapters. It serves as the most brilliant mnemonic, a superbly encoded system from which the messages of yoga need to be retrieved for contemplation, practice and eventually, complete assimilation.
The Yoga Sūtras were not meant to be studied on their own. A teaching is needed to unravel its meaning. There is a whole lot of new vocabulary for those not familiar with Sanskrit. Without some basic understanding of key words and a general knowledge of the vocabulary of this text, even the best commentaries become inaccessible.
When you are able to recall some of these words, the study of the yoga sūtras then become a possibility. You can always study entirely with translations, never encountering the original text, but if you want to study from the source, you have to put some effort into learning the vocabulary.
Seems like an arduous task?
There is an efficient and meditative way to achieve this base level familiarisation of the Yoga Sūtras. The traditional system of repeating after the teacher in rhythmic verses which helps practitioners not only become familiar with the text, but also in memorisation. The chanting of the Yoga Sūtras!
Studying the Yoga Sūtras in Mysore, India with Dr.Jayashree
According to my teacher Dr.Jayashree, the chanting and memorisation of the sūtras plays a vital role in its understanding. Chanting being a meditative practice, paves the way to our knowledge becoming wisdom. In order to understand a concept, we need to be able to first recall it and bring it into our working mental space for analysis. More practically, repeating the same word sequence helps the mind to remember the text easily! Especially for beginners, this is the best start to the study of this text!
Sanskrit chanting has its own beautiful benefits – physiologically and more. A natural state of quietude is brought about in the mind through chanting making one more receptive to the study afterwards. In Sanskrit we call this quietude “sattva”, a quality of lightness, clarity, balance, peacefulness and positivity.
A deep study of yoga reveals to us that these are qualities most helpful to the aspiring yogī. Imagine the efficiency of this method of study – that which needs to be achieved in Yoga is also being achieved through its method of study!
The chanting of the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali in our classes in Brussels.