Do you really know Yoga if you don’t know the Yoga Sutras?

Written by Natalie Bowcutt

I was clueless for years

I started practicing Yoga sporadically around 8 years ago, more regularly in the last 5 or 6 years.

I began practicing in a variety of Yoga classes, my first love being, what you might call, ‘vinyasa flow’. I loved the fluid, ‘dance-like’ quality of the movements. In some cases, I experienced a new sense of focus after class and in others it triggered strong emotional responses, like ‘crying my eyes out’ or ‘low level rage’.

I experienced Yoga and it was creating change. I didn’t need to know the ancient philosophy, I knew it affected me in some way, although I wasn’t exactly sure how or why.

I sensed there was more

After some time, I found myself yearning to learn more. This led me to enrol in a teacher training course at The Yoga Institute. This is when my life really started to change. Previously, I had enjoyed and gained benefits from practicing Yoga but it wasn’t until I understood the whole system that I deepened my understanding of what was causing me suffering in my life.

This was achieved through my studies and being guided through the development of my own personalised practice.

In education, when you know ‘the why’ and then practice it, embody it, it is much more powerful than if you are simply ‘led’ through the practice.

When you are studying to become a teacher, this is incredibly important. There are teachers and there are teachers. As a yoga teacher, having a solid understanding of the entire system and framework of yoga allows you to guide people into a deeper understanding of their being and what causes them suffering – be it physical, mental or emotional.

Sharing the transformative power of Yoga

I have had the good fortune of being able to work one-to-one with many clients and have witnessed the profound transformation that can occur when a truly integrated approach is taken.

There is so much more to the system of Yoga than ‘making shapes’ on a rubber mat. As a teacher, a thorough grounding in the Yoga Sutras is essential to be able to guide students in their practice and apply the principles of this ancient ‘guide to living’ to address the challenges of our modern lives.

The Yoga Sutras is not just The 8 Limbs

There are 195 Yoga Sutras. These concise descriptions detail the whole system of Yoga and how it works to bring positive change to our minds and our lives. Focusing on just one part of the system of Yoga, such as asana (the physical poses), could be compared to choosing one verse or chapter from The Bible, The Tanakh, The Quran or the Tao Te Ching and living life according to that small piece of the whole picture.

  • Asana appears just once (referred to 3 times) in 195 Yoga Sutras
  • Only 20 of the 195 sutras are dedicated to the explanation of ‘The 8 Limbs’

This puts ‘The 8 Limbs’ into perspective as a part of the system of Yoga. Whilst the 8 Limbs are important, they are not the entire story, they are part of a much larger whole.

Most teacher trainings make some reference to the Yoga Sutras and the majority of those references are about ‘The 8 Limbs’.

Understanding Yoga Philosophy transformed my teaching

My experience as both a student and teacher of yoga has been deeply enriched through study and understanding of the Yoga Sutras. I have been able to apply what I’ve learned to know myself and to understand the workings of my own mind and then take that out into the world to be a better teacher. Connecting with others and helping students in their own process of transformation has been an incredible experience.

If you want the ability to guide people through real transformation, it is essential to dedicate the time to the study of the philosophy of Yoga and how it can be applied to the individuals you are working with.

The framework for The Yoga Institute’s teacher training and yoga studies courses is based on the fundamental principle that knowledge and understanding of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is essential to competently and confidently teach Yoga to others. And for students to gain the full benefit of all the system of Yoga has to offer.

As well as teaching the Yoga Sutras through our teacher training courses, we also offer standalone Yoga Sutra Studies courses for yoga teachers and yoga students, and a personal practice course for keen students who want to deepen their practice but aren’t interested in teaching.

Join us for an Information Session

It’s a fantastic way to meet the team and ask questions about becoming a yoga teacher or about our teacher training and yoga studies courses:



Upcoming courses:

Yoga Teacher Training Diploma

Yoga Sutra Studies  

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