In our last two articles “What is Yoga?” and “Ashtanga Yoga System”, we attempted to distill the vastness of yogic knowledge for easy understanding. We really hope we have piqued your interest in the deeper philosophy of yoga whether you are already practicing or completely new to yoga.
To lead you further down the rabbit hole and to encourage you to continue your exploration and practice, we have some incredible texts we wanted to highlight below, that will aid you in this journey. Do share with us about how these articles and these resources help you on the path of yoga and ultimately your life!
Before we begin with these texts, the structure that they are written in- sutra- are essential to the understanding of the texts itself. The word ‘sutra’ literally means ‘thread’ and traditional sutra aims to weave wisdom as aphorisms, very few words but affirmative and free from ambiguity. Due to this nature in which ancient wisdom is conveyed, it is highly recommended to learn under a bonafide teacher who has studied the depth of knowledge with a teacher themselves. This ensures we can delve deeper into the text and understand its essence.
Texts to read to aid you on the path of yoga:
Yoga Sutra by Patanjali
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is considered the “heart of yoga”. “The heart, hrdaya, is that which does not change and Patanjali gave a permanent definition and form to yoga in his Sutra.”1 Patanjali’s text has been essential in the study of yoga through the ages as it has given a condensed (yet vast) and systematic understanding of yogic philosophy and practice. There is no prescribed order to study the Vedas wherein sits the wisdom of yoga, and hence very difficult for enthusiastic disciples. Patanjali has added structure to the yogic tradition and made it more accessible.
The Yoga Sutra is presented in four chapters. The first called ‘samadhipada’ defines yoga, its characteristics, the problems one may encounter in reaching the state of yoga and the methods on how to handle these problems.
The second chapter, ‘sadhanapada’ describes the qualities essential to change the mind effectively from distraction to attention, why it’s important, what the practice (sadhana) entails and describes the first 5 components of the Ashtanga system of yoga.
The third chapter ‘vibutipada’ illustrates the capacity of the mind and the distraction it can pose within itself even as it is elevating into a state of attention and assimilation and how to overcome higher stages of distraction. It discusses the 6th. 7th and 8th components of the Ashtanga system.
The final chapter, ‘kaivalyapada’, highlights the possibilities of a highly elevated and refined mind and how the mind can be a servant of the being and not the master which is the key to serenity and truth.
Yoganjalisaram by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
Yoganjalisaram was written by Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, one of the most significant yogis and teachers of yoga often called the “father of modern yoga” for his immense contribution to the revival of hatha yoga. He is attributed to be the architect of vinyasa krama yoga which closely links the breadth to asana through movement. He was the teacher of famous yoga teachers B.K.S Iyengar, Indra Devi, and his son T.K.V Desikachar.
Yoganjalisaram is a great text as it is short and poetic, given in the form of sloka (or short couplets), easy to digest and yet gives a vast and holistic understanding of the practice of yoga and particularly the philosophy of Sri T Krishnamacharya’s teachings. It focuses on important aspects beyond just asana and how to be on the path of yoga.
The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V Desikachar
T.K.V Desikachar was Tirumalai Krishnamacharya’s son and very close disciple. He practiced and learned under his incredibly knowledgeable father and yoga was integrated into his life through all daily practices.
In his book Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, Desikachar gives an incredibly relatable and practical understanding of yoga and how to construct and deepen your personal practice. While a book can never do for you what the right teacher can, Desikachara’s book is a great supplement to enhance your understanding of yoga and has been this author’s guiding book.
Within the book, he breaks down concepts, gives a deeper and clear understanding of all components of yoga and also hosts the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali (translated by his father) and his father’s text Yoganjalisaram. It is a holistic and essential text on yoga for any practicing and aspiring yogi.
Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar
Light on Yoga is considered an essential text when studying yoga to practice as well as teach. It is part of the reading for most schools for teacher training courses because of the comprehensive understanding of yoga as well as the depth of details prescribed for an anthology of asanas.
B.K.S Iyengar is considered one of the world’s foremost yoga and spiritual teachers and has been attributed with bringing yoga to the western world. He was a student of T. Krishnamacharya and then opened one of the most important schools of yoga practice in Pune before spreading yoga to the West. He is particularly known for his yoga style which is reformative and restorative, especially for injuries.
Bhagavad Gita (version recommended is Bhagavad Gita: As It Is translated and explained by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)
The Bhagavad Gita is the essential text on Vedic wisdom and is often considered the ‘holy book’ of the ‘Hindus’ akin to the Bible for Christians, the Quran for Muslims etc. Though the actual accuracy of that statement is debatable, The Bhagavad Gita is the nectar of wisdom, composing the vastness of Vedic philosophy into one text.
The premise of the Gita is a conversation between Arjuna, the warrior prince and Krsna, his friend and charioteer as they are about to embark on a war against their own family for the righteous rule over the land. The text opens with Arjuna being confronted with the graveness of battling his own family and surrendering his weapons. Krsna, who is actually God (and considered the Supreme Personality of Godhead on this earth within the Krsna Consciousness lineage) reveals himself and his wisdom to Arjuna.
Within that conversation between friends and teacher/disciple, the length and breadth of Vedic wisdom are distilled down to help Arjun gain understanding and faith. While it is a text that highlights the practice and philosophy of Bhakti Yoga, the Bhagavad Gita also informs a deep understanding of all paths of Yoga. Like all texts of ancient wisdom, it is recommended to study the Gita under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual guide/teacher.
We hope this series has inspired you to delve deeper into your already existing yoga practice or be enthused about practicing yoga in your daily life. Starting can sometimes be very overwhelming so we would like to help you by outlining some guiding questions you can ask of yourself that can illuminate your own being to authentically journey on the path of yoga!
Questions to ask of yourself:
- Are you already practicing yoga to some extent? How can you deepen your practice through understanding the wisdom and aspiring to embody this wisdom? Are you just exercising or aware of the holistic components of yoga? How do you put these into practice in your daily life, not just on the mat?
- What practices already put you in the state of yoga? One of focus, attention, “meditation”? How can you enhance these practices given the tools of this knowledge and wisdom?
- Are you practicing the essence of Karma yoga in all work that you do? Are you practicing Bhakti yoga in all your relationships, Sankhya in all your knowledge and Raja through personal development?
- If you have been inspired to practice yoga, what has inspired you and will now guide you on this path?
- Remember that this path is of yours alone, not to be compared with anyone else.
- Do you have a guiding teacher? If not, try and look for a teacher.
- It is ideal if a teacher is knowledgeable in all aspects of yoga and not just the physical aspects of asana. Nevertheless, a teacher that is well versed in physical postures and is able to guide you to perform the postures correctly is very essential to avoid injury.
- Always listen to your body when practicing asanas and slowly overcome your boundaries through building strength and flexibility of the mind and body. Yoga is not something to be “good” at, it just is.
Have any questions? Please feel free to reach out to us! Within our team, we have yoga teachers and access to incredibly respected and seasoned yoga teachers of all paths of yoga. We would love to contribute to this journey of yours.