Upward Plank Yoga Pose

A diverse and dense compilation

A principal focus among many modern yoga popularisers is to explain Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. It is seen as the core yoga scripture and Patanjali as the father of yoga. However the Samkhya core-work of Ishvarakrishna entitled Samkhya-karika is rarely studied in order to deepen and improve students’ understanding and practice of yoga. The reason is probably that while Samkhya-karika is a general and abstract philosophical treaty, the YS is imagined as a practical document concerned with describing the ascetic yoga lifestyle, its practice and its goals.

The YS – which many believe was composed between 200 BC and 200 AD (but was probably much later, around 300-400 AD) – is the first known comprehensive treatise of aphorisms on yoga. The Upanishads and The Bhagavad-Gita discusses yoga but none of those pre-YS scriptures would allow the student to fundamentally understand and commence yoga practice. However, it is claimed that the YS is much closer to such a goal.

Reading through the YS, the student experiences a collection of groups of very dense verses, which are hardly comprehensible. Most verses are technical descriptions, enumerations and classifications not understandable for most readers and already in those days requiring commentaries to be understood. As time went by meta-commentaries on the commentaries of the YS were required in order to make sense (See methodological section on cultural memory ). This does not make easy reading.

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