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If you are interested in learning about the core of who you are, and how that core affects your everyday relationships, perceptions, and actions, then the principles and practices described in the Yoga Sutras can help. The text provides a theoretical structure of human consciousness, with directions on how to navigate our way through life’s ups and downs. Emphasis is laid on turning our attention inward to more fully understand what our true nature is all about. Who are we now? How can we become more happy and fulfilled human beings?
I came to study the Yoga Sutras from a background in yoga Asana, meditation, and Sanskrit. After reading several different translations and still not feeling comfortable with my understanding, I sought out qualified teachers who had themselves studied the Yoga Sutras over many years with their teachers, and had applied the principles and practices to their lives. For me, this was the key that unlocked the door. There is no substitute for having a kind, knowledgeable, inspiring teacher who walks the talk.
Integrating yoga philosophy into my life was also absolutely necessary. Yoga is meant to be experiential, not just intellectual. Yet it was asking questions of my primary teachers that caused the proverbial light bulbs to brighten my understanding.
I personally appreciate the Yoga Sutras as much for its masterful design as for its universality and emphasis on personal growth. The ideas espoused in the text, such as truthfulness, self-observation, and diligent practice, are truly independent of time, place, culture, or religion. The author, Patanjali, offers unique and powerful tools for inner development and outer poise. These include living a kind, civil life; refining the body, mind, and sense organs; and turning our attention inward to understand the true nature of the inner Self.
Learning the concepts and implementing the practices of yoga is a lifelong pursuit that is bound to create outer joy and inner happiness. The ability to catch myself before I act unconsciously, based on past habitual patterning, then deciding to change course and act in a beneficial and positive way, makes me appreciate the usefulness and profundity of the Yoga Sutras. Every time I am able to listen to all sides of an argument or see another person as a manifestation of the radiant light of awareness that we all share, I am reminded of how powerful and transformative the practices are. These are just a few of many, many examples where this wisdom can be applied.
Remember, the purpose of yoga is clarification of our individual field of consciousness in order to perceive external events clearly and connect to our inner light of awareness, our inner Self. Spiritual development involves conscious change and refinement—replacing one’s unconscious, negative habitual patterns with conscious, positive, helpful practices that dissolve attachments and lead to a healthier, happier being.