American Institute of Vedic Studies

The Essence of

Yoga Sutras

of Patanjali


In the following short video course, we will explore the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in their core essence. This consists of the first sixteen of its nearly two hundred Sutras, which provide the foundation for the entire text. If you know and understand these sixteen Sutras, you will understand the meaning and goal of the Yoga Sutras overall.


An in-depth examination of the first sixteen Sutras is necessary for illuminating all the subsequent Sutras. These sixteen explain what Yoga is, its goal (Kaivalya), its view of the workings of the mind (chitta) and how to transcend these to the state of Self-realization, the meaning of Samadhi, Nirodha, Purusha and what the practice of Yoga (abhyasa) consists of, notably relative to discrimination (Viveka) and detachment (Vairagya).


Yet we have tried to present this essence of the Yoga Sutras in clear and relevant terms today, so that the contemporary reader, wishing to view Yoga at a deeper level can access to it in an authentic manner.

About the Course Author

Dr David Frawley

David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) D.Litt is one of the most respected Vedic educators worldwide. He is the only western Vedic teacher to have received the prestigious Padma Bhushan award, the third-highest civilian award from the President of India, for his work as a Vedic teacher. He was one of the first to receive a prestigious doctor of letters, from SVYASA (Swami Vivekananda Yoganusandhana Samsthana), the only deemed Yoga university in India. He has gained a special National Eminence Award from the South Indian Education Society (SIES) under the auspices of the famous Kanchi Shankaracharya Math, one of the main sites of traditional learning in India.

Dr. Frawley is the author of fifty books published in twenty languages worldwide over the last thirty years. He has direct experience teaching and guiding individuals, groups and organizations in the different fields of Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda, and Vedic astrology, and has written extensively on all these topics. He has been part of several important Vedic educational institutes and projects worldwide, including at a national level in India. He is considered to be the most accomplished western teacher of an integral approach to Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Vedic astrology.

A Deeper Examination of Yoga Sutras

The Yoga Sutras of the Rishi Patanjali remains one of the most important texts on Yoga, widely translated, studied and commented upon, and undergoing a new examination in the global Yoga movement. Yet it also remains one of the most misinterpreted. There are several reasons for this, starting with that the text consists of short aphorisms which require a commentary to make sense of.

Patanjali teaches the tradition of Yoga. This existed long before him in Vedic texts from the Rigveda consisting of the mantras of the Rishis, to the Bhagavad Gita of Sri Krishna, who is said to be the Lord of Yoga, Yogeshvara, and the Avatar of Yoga, Yogavatara. Yet Patanjali doesn’t explain this antecedent Yoga tradition in detail, as such a short Sutra work would not have the scope to do so.

In addition, those who comment on the Sutras today may not know the implications of its Sanskrit terms according to their traditional usage. The terms used in Yoga Sutras have a long history and application and are not unique to the text.

Most interpretations of Yoga Sutras today center on asana and related practices, which are important, but the definition of Yoga in the Sutras is Samadhi as Self-realization beyond body and mind. Yet the meaning of Samadhi and its experience is seldom examined in depth. We try to do that in our approach here.

Yoga as a Science of Consciousness

My interpretation is based upon a fifty year long study of Vedic, Yogic and Vedantic texts in the original Sanskrit from the Rigveda, Upanishads, Gita and Mahabharata, to the Yoga Vasishtha, and the related schools of Vedanta and Samkhya. It reflects my connections with great modern Yoga-Vedanta gurus and lineages as those of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni, Sadguru Sivananda Murty, Sri Anandamayi Ma, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Anirvan, and Swami Veda Bharati.

In our study, we approach Yoga as a science of Consciousness rooted in calming the mind, an inner psychology that is relevant to all. As such, this yogic science of Consciousness provides the inner dimension to complement the outer dimension of modern science, so we can understand the universe not only outside of ourselves but also within ourselves. Yoga leads us to the Atman or Purusha, the inner Self of the entire universe, which is our true nature and the Divine essence of all.

May you discover your own true essence in the essence of the Yoga Sutras!

Hari OM Tat Sat! Sri Yoga Purushaya Namah!