American Institute of Vedic Studies

Shakti, the Yoga Sutras and Patanjali

Some scholars state that there is no mention of Shakti in the Yoga Sutras. This is incorrect. Shakti is the last word in the Yoga Sutras that sums up its entire teaching and defines its goal as the realization of the Purusha. It suggests what is referred to as Kundalini Shakti in other Yoga texts.


The Yoga Sutras ends (YS IV.34) with a description of Kaivalya, the highest Samadhi and the state of the Purusha that is the goal of Yoga practice, in the following words:

“The subsidence of the gunas when the Purusha has no interest in them is Kaivalya (liberation), or when there is the resting in the Self-nature of the Shakti or power of Consciousness (Kaivalyam Svarūpa pratiṣṭhā vā Citi Śaktir iti).”


The last term in the Yoga Sutras here is Chiti Shakti or power of consciousness, as resting in its Self-nature which is the Self-nature of all. That is Kaivalya or liberation, the Self-realization of abiding as Purusha/Atman. This Chiti Shakti is also the Purusha Shakti or Atma Shakti, the knowledge power of the higher Self.

This Chiti Shakti echoes the Chit Shakti or power of Consciousness in Shaivite and Shakta philosophy, whose manifestation in the individual is Kundalini Shakti, which unfolds the process of Self-realization in its ascending movement from the root chakra below to the top of the thousand petal lotus of the head.


This last verse of the Yoga Sutras reflects in meaning the third verse of the text (YS I.3) that explains Yoga as resulting in “Abidance in the Self-nature of the Seer (Tadā Draṣṭuḥ Svarūpe avasthānam) or Purusha, which results from the Chitta Vritti Nirodha, the definition of Yoga as the detachment from, calming and disidentification with the mind or chitta (YS I.2).


Equating these two verses at the start and end of the text, we see that the Purusha or Seer (Drashta) and the Shakti of consciousness (Chiti-shakti) are united in the same Self-nature. Purusha/Atman and its Shakti or power of seeing and knowing are one, like Shiva and Shakti.


Patanjali and the Serpent Power


The name Patanjali refers to a type of serpent and he is portrayed in iconography as with serpent heads or serpents behind him. In this regard, Patanjali is identified with Ananta, the cosmic serpent on which Bhagavan Vishnu sits during the Pralaya, when the universal manifestation is withdrawn. It suggests Shiva Mahadeva, who is the lord of serpents and Adi Yogi or the primal guru of Yoga. This means that Patanjali appears as another manifestation of the Serpent Power like Kundalini which is called the Serpent Power. In the context of Yoga, serpents symbolize high powerful electrical forces of Consciousness and its Shakti, which have a knowledge power far beyond the energetic capacities of the mind.


Patanjali, Mantra and Vak Shakti


Patanjali, besides being a Yoga Seer, was famous as a grammarian who commented on the great Panini who hd codified classical Sanskrit. Such Sanskrit gramaer was not just an academic pursuit but a profound meditative study on how all sounds manifest from OM or Pranava, the primordial cosmic sound, a path of Mantra Yoga. As such, Patanjali was well acquainted with mantra and Vak Shakti, the power of speech that has always been associated with Chit-Shakti and Kundalini Shakti. These Sanskrit sounds are not just words but reflect the vibratory powers behind the universe as a whole.


Patanjali Yoga Sutras (YS I.26) refers to Ishvara as the eternal Guru of Yoga, not limited by time, whose indicator (vacaka) is Pranava/OM (YS nI27). This means that Mantra Yoga, which arises from OM, is the basis of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga and of Ishvara Pranidhana, surrendering to Ishvara, which is mentioned as one of the main means of gaining Samadhi, one of the three principles of Kriya Yoga and one of the five Niyamas.


Mantra Yoga unfolds its power in the individual through Kundalini Shakti, which has three and a half coils like Om, and consists of the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet that correspond to the petals of the six chakras of the subtle body. At a cosmic level, Vak Shakti is Ishvara Shakti, the power of Ishvara that is one with Ishvara, as Adi Yogi and Yoga Shakti. When her mantric power is awakened within us through her manifestation as the Kundalini, She takes us back to the state of Ishvara and our own inmost Self.


Such  diverse correlations clearly show the profound connections that exist between Yoga Sutras and Shakti practices. While many other such correlations are also possible, what Patanjali taught about Yoga and  the teachings of the Shakta tradition cannot be separated. Shakti is an integral part of the Yoga Sutras in its views of Pranava, mantra, Consciousness and perception. Shakti texts teach an integral Raja Yoga, much like the Yoga Sutras, with practices of all eight limbs of Yoga, as well as an emphasis on Shiva and Shakti.


Honoring the place of Shakti in Yoga is the very essence of Yoga. Without this Yoga Shakti or power of consciousness, the inner Yoga of Self-realization cannot succeed. Do not leave the Shakti out of your Yoga practice or out of your study of the Yoga Sutras.


David Frawley (Vamdeva Shastri)


Latest Articles
Articles on Vedic Counseling

Embodied Mind and Transcendent Consciousness

We human beings are embodied creatures defined by our birth in a particular physical body as indicating our real identity and the focus of our lives. Our minds are not only located in the body but ruled by an entire set of bodily needs, imperatives, appearances and actions and their

Read More »
Articles by Yogini Shambhavi

Kali as the Yuga Shakti: the Power to Create a New World Age

By Yogini Shambhavi   As the great power of time, Kali’s Shakti creates the different Yugas or world ages that humanity passes through during the long cycles of cosmic evolution. Kali is the Goddess of eternity watching over all our temporal changes and facilitating those which promote our inner growth.

Read More »
Articles on Vedic Counseling

Comparison and the Incomparable Self

Your inner Self (Atman) and true nature cannot be compared to anything. It has no name, form or action, no shape, size or color. It is beyond all elements and qualities of nature. It is beyond body and mind, time and appearance altogether. It dwells within everything yet is not

Read More »
Articles on Ayurveda

Shiva Ayurveda – The Yogic Power of Healing and Transformation

Most Ayurvedic practitioners look upon Lord Dhanvantari, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, as the deity of Ayurveda and ideal doctor. Certainly that is an important tradition worthy of following based on profound Puranic stories and symbolism. Yet in the Rigveda, the oldest Vedic text, and Shruti or book of mantric

Read More »
Articles on Vedic Astrology

Winter Solstice, Galactic Center and New Time of Troubles

I have been writing for some years about 2020 as indicating the beginning of a “New Time of Troubles” for humanity, dangerous from 2020-2028, but continuing long beyond that. This relates astronomically to the Winter Solstice point transiting the Galactic Center in the constellation of Sagittarius. It is difficult to

Read More »
Articles on Yoga

The Ancient Yoga of the Sun

For the Winter Solstice December 21, which marks the rebirth of the Sun and Agni What if the most powerful force for energizing all Yoga practices were as obvious and visible as the Sun? The fact is that it is. The Sun, properly understood not merely as an outer but

Read More »
Articles on Yoga

Yoga as Samadhi

Yoga is defined as Samadhi in the Yoga Sutras. Yet few Yoga practitioners know what Samadhi is or how to approach it. But without understanding Samadhi one cannot understand Yoga in the true sense of the term. Samadhi is complete coherence and composure of mind, the mind fully united with

Read More »
Articles on Yoga

Yoga Nidra according to Adi Shankara

Yoga Nidra is a popular topic today but seldom taken to the depth that it is presented with in the Vedantic teachings. Here we will examine it according to the views of the great teacher, Shankara.   Adi Shankara or Shankaracharya is the most lauded exponent of Advaita or non-dualistic

Read More »
Articles on Yoga

Why Sri Krishna is the Avatar of Yoga

Sri Krishna is the only human guru and incarnation of Vishnu called Yogavatara or the Avatar of Yoga, and Yogeshvara or the Lord of Yoga. The Bhagavad Gita remains the most important and foundational Yoga Shastra or definitive Yoga text. To understand Yoga one must understand Sri Krishna, his life,

Read More »

Follow Dr David Frawley on social media @

Ayurvedic Healing Course

Take a comprehensive, yet affordable distance learning program in Ayurvedic healing, providing a vast set of resources, presented with clarity and depth. It is an excellent and accessible place to start your journey into Ayurveda from wherever you may be, and yet will take you very far. Our Ayurvedic Healing course covers mind-body constitution, daily health regimens, doshic imbalances, dietary and herbal treatment, sensory therapies and internal practices of Yoga and meditation. Our course aims to bring the deeper teachings of Ayurveda to everyone at an affordable price, whether for self-healing or helping others. It is connected to the classic books on Ayurveda of Dr. David Frawley. An internationally renowned course taken by over ten thousand people worldwide over the last thirty years, the course remains one of the best ways to learn Ayurveda both at a personal level and as a foundation for deeper study. Let the wisdom of Ayurveda transform your life and broaden your awareness!

Learn more and Signup Here »

Ayurvedic Astrology Course

Learn the secrets of Vedic astrology as taught relative to the healing powers of Ayurveda. View your birth chart to determine your Ayurvedic mind-body constitution according to their planetary connections, and promote longevity yoga and Self-realization. Learn how to read Vedic charts to help others recognize and optimize their karmas to fulfill their dharma. Study the teachings Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri), a master educator in Vedic astrology and Ayurveda of worldwide renown. This course has helped pioneered Vedic astrology in the West and made it accessible to all serious students. Join in this Vedic movement to connect to the universe, the stars and planets, within you!

Learn more and Signup Here »

Yoga, Ayurveda, Mantra & Meditation Course

Take an inspiring online program on classical Yoga and traditional Ayurveda for body, mind and consciousness. Learn how to heal yourself according to a higher awareness that you can share with all! This many-sided course covers all eight limbs of Yoga according to Ayurvedic principles, from asana and pranayama to deeper practices of mantra and meditation. It teaches an Ayurvedic Yoga approach for the full unfoldment of our inner awareness. It shares the secrets of Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, the Yogas of knowledge, devotion and action, in the context of a greater Raja Yoga. Study with one of the world’s leading experts and Acharyas in the field of Yoga and Ayurveda. Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri), linking yourself with authentic traditions going back to the Vedic Seers.

Learn more and Signup Here »
Learn Yoga, Ayurveda, Mantra and Meditationwith Dr David Frawley

Take an inspiring online program on classical Yoga and traditional Ayurveda for body, mind and consciousness. Learn how to heal yourself according to a higher awareness that you can share with all! This many-sided course covers all eight limbs of Yoga according to Ayurvedic principles, from asana and pranayama to deeper practices of mantra and meditation.

Layer 1