What are the Yoga Sutras?

Sutra literally means, “thread,” and each sutra contains a thread of a thought. A sutra is an aphoristic statement or a work containing such statements.

The Yoga Sutras is the source text of classical yoga. These 195 aphorisms serve as a concise guide for the philosophy and practice of yoga. Patanjali compiled them over two thousand years ago. Although often considered the author of the yoga sutras, historians generally believe that he assembled and recorded the oral tradition of yoga.

The Yoga Sutras are divided into four chapters:

  • 1st chapter on ecstasy samadhi-pada
    Addresses the theory of Yoga is called the chapter on ecstasy
    51 aphorisms.
  • 3rd chapter on the powers vibhuti-pada
    Sets forth the internal rigor and ability a yogi acquires
    55 aphorisms.
  • 2nd chapter on the path sadhana-pada
    Introduces the practices of Yoga for the novice
    55 aphorisms.
  • 4th chapter on liberation kaivalya-pada
    Delineates the freedom and peace gained from Yoga
    34 aphorisms.2

2Georg Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition (Prescott: Hohm Press, 1998), p. 216.