While it can take a lifetime (or 3!) to understand, absorb and integrate the teachings of the Sutras, the core essence can be found in just the first four Sutras. Patanjali lays out the aim of Yoga and the reason to walk the path.

So we get told the meaning and aim of Yoga? It’s not that simple!

There are at least 3 steps in approaching the translation of the Sutras. First is to take it word by word – noting the several options in meaning for each Sanskrit words; then to play with the words – different options of words in various combinations and orders to find the best way to express the spirit of the text as you see it; (researching and reading various commentaries can help) then to re-write the phrase in simple terms that most resonates with you.

Sutra means ‘thread’ and this is what we do in translating: if the words are precious crystals, there are many similar but slightly different jewels. Our work is to choose the ones that ‘speak to us’ then to thread them together and to make the chain – and so this is a process of many possible outcomes.

Here are some possible interpretations of the first two stages of the translation process. You may like to take it further – look at various translations and commentaries and then write your own expression of a simple, succinct and sincere phase.


Atha yoga anu shasanam
Now union within teaching
yoke follows instruction
begins explanation

And now the teaching of yoga begins


Yoga chitta vritti nirodhah
Yoga the mind fluctuations stop
consciousness activity still
thoughts movement control

Yoga is the process of stilling the activity of the mind


Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam
Then the seer own form abide
At that time the practitioner true nature rest /reside
(you!) own self dwell

Then you will reside in your true nature


Vritti sarupyam itaratra
Fluctuations identify elsewhere
Activity with form or else
Movements if not (in the above state)

If not (if you don’t have a process for stilling the mind) you will identify with your thoughts

What is the meaning of Yoga in your own words? Share with us on facebook.