Yoga Sutras for Self-Care

The Yogic sage Patanjali

The Yogic sage Patanjali

“From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy and satisfaction are/is obtained”.   - Yoga Sutras II:42

The Yoga Sutras is a celebrated masterpiece written over 2,000 years ago by the yogic sage Patanjali. This is “THE BOOK” on yoga. In just 196 short verses, or “sutras,” it addresses the shared human condition and maps out how to work towards a more liberated experience of body, mind and soul. There is no mention of flexibility or acrobatic tricks here and it is not religious or dogmatic.

The Yoga Sutras addresses these four principals:

  1. Life can be difficult and suffering is real.

  2. How to understand the root causes for suffering.

  3. How to discover the means for overcoming these causes.

  4. How to master those means.

Get to know yourself

The Yoga Sutras share that true self-care begins with having a good understanding of ourselves. Deep within the heart and core of each of us there lies many similarities.  What are these similarities and moreover how does understanding them make life better? These are just some of the inquiries that The Yoga Sutras explores. Knowledge is useful and when put into practice it can really make a difference.

Take care of yourself

I remember when I first realized that no one could take care of me and love me the way I could. To truly practice self-care is not to seek care externally from other people or things, but to learn how to find it from the inside. The Yoga Sutras share that the practice of kindness and gentleness towards ourselves is paramount. This concept is also highlighted in another of my favorite books,  A Course in Miracles, which offers this universal truth: “the outer world is nothing more than an inner condition.”  This is an important inquiry. Is it possible, that if we could practice more gentleness and kindness towards ourselves, that our outer world would transform?

Think positive

If you have been to any of my classes you will know I am obsessed with ending our time together in the self-care practice of “Santosha,” or contentment and gratitude.  No matter what is happening that day or how ugly life can get, The Yoga Sutras teaches us that this practice will produce an alchemical shift, saying that when practiced regularly “unexcelled happiness and mental comfort are obtained.”  The late Joseph Campbell put it so succinctly, “Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

Learn and practice

Being a human is a miraculous gift, yet it is very mysterious. The mystics who have lived here. and are still living here now, drop maps and wisdom to help us along our journey. The Yoga Sutras is definitely one of those gifts of wisdom.  

There is a myth that Patanjali was part serpent with 1,000 heads. The 1,000 heads were a metaphor for the 1,000 ways he shared great wisdom. Each person asking from a slightly different vantage point, and each person receiving a personal message just for them. This is The Yoga Sutras.  If you have this text I invite you to grab it off the shelf and take a fresh look. If you are just now learning about this text, here are three recommendations, that I have absolutely love and return to all the time:

For beginners:

The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living by Stephen Cope

For intermediate:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Sacred Teachings) by Alistair Shearer

For advanced:

The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary by Edwin F. Bryant

Just contemplating one sutra a day can bring powerful insights as you continue to travel along your journey.

A Yoga Unplugged collaboration - written by Jennifer Reuter, edited by Sarah Burchard