The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a foundational text of Yoga. It forms part of the corpus of Sutra literature dating to India’s Mauryan period. In Indian philosophy, Yoga is the name of one of the six orthodox philosophical schools. Though brief, the Yoga Sutras are an enormously influential work on yoga philosophy and practice, held by principal proponents of yoga such as Iyengar as being of principal importance.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali prescribes adherence to eight “limbs” or steps to quiet one’s mind and achieve kaivalya. The Yoga Sutras form the theoretical and philosophical basis of Raja Yoga, and are considered to be the most organized and complete definition of that discipline. The division into the Eight Limbs (Sanskrit Ashtanga) of Yoga is reminiscent of Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path; inclusion of Brahmaviharas also shows Buddhism’s influence on parts of the Sutras.
The Sutras not only provide yoga with a thorough and consistent philosophical basis, they also clarify many important esoteric concepts which are common to all traditions of Indian thought, such as karma.
The eight “limbs” or steps prescribed in the second pada of the Yoga Sutras are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.