As you develop an interest in yoga and learn more about the practice, you’ll encounter a lot of new terms. Amongst them, you might hear the word sutra used quite a bit. The term comes from the Sanskrit sū́tra (सूत्र) which can mean ‘a thread’ or ‘a plan.’ For practicing yoga though, the word sutra has a more specific meaning as an aphorism or a saying about the philosophy of yoga itself.
There are thousands of sutras about yoga, but the most well known are a collection made by the sage Patañjali. The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali make up an essential cornerstone of yoga. The book is made of 196 sutras written in Sanskrit that the sage collected from various yoga traditions somewhere around the year 400. He placed these sutras into four different chapters or books. Each book has its own distinct focus. Thankfully, there are plenty of translations available for those of us who don’t know any ancient languages.
Using the Yoga Sutras
You don’t need to read all 196 of the sutras to have a good yoga practice. In fact, many people don’t know about the sutras at all. If you are interested, you can see them more as guidelines rather than strict rules to be followed.
However, if you are more interested in the history of yoga and its tradition as practice of the mind as well as the body, you should learn more. Yoga has a long extensive history that extends far beyond the physical yoga workouts we hear about today, so take it in as you want!