Yoga Sutras

The Yoga Sutras of Happiness

Interpreted by Silvia Mordini and Sarah Erter, with inspiration from Sri Swami Satchidananda, Nischala Joy Devi, T.K.V. Desikachar, B.K.S. Iyengar, Judith Lasaster.

The Yoga Sutras express that our natural state of being is characterized by happiness, joy, creativity, inherent wisdom, love, luminosity, inclusivity, and openness.

Yoga Sutra 1.3: United in the heart, consciousness is steadies, and we abide in our true nature — joy.

– Nischala Joy Devi,  The Secret Power of Yoga

Yet as part of the human experience, we encounter a full range of emotional states. The Yoga Sutras outline the obstacles we will inevitably encounter that steer us away from our natural state.

Yoga Sutra 1.30: There are nine predictable obstacles (or mental distractions) that arise on the inner journey.

These nine obstacles and interpretations from both feminine + masculine teachers + students include:

  1. Vyadhi — illness, sickness, disease, ailment
  2. Styana — inefficiency, rigidity, procrastination, dullness, mental laziness
  3. Samshaya — doubt, indecision, hesitancy, skepticism
  4. Pramada — negligence, carelessness
  5. Alasya — langour, laziness, sloth, idleness
  6. Avirati — want of non-attachment, non-abstention, craving
  7. Bhranti-Darshanah — confusion of philosophies, false views, wrong-thinking, incorrect perception
  8. Alabadha-Bhumikatva — failing to attain stages of practice, absence of practice, stuckness
  9. Anavasthitava — slipping down, inability to maintain, instability, unsteadiness

As you review these obstacles, take a moment to reflect on which obstacle(s) you may be experiencing during this particular flow.

Yoga Sutra 1.31: What happens as a result of these obstacles? First the distraction happens and our attention is drawn there away from everything else. Once our attention fixates there, this becomes the obstacle and we become disturbed. As a result we experience: Mental or physical pain, sadness and frustration, unsteadiness in the body, and irregular breath.

The Yoga Sutras then provides us with guidance on how to manage and overcome these obstacles.

Yoga Sutra 1.32: To prevent or deal with these nine obstacles and their four consequences, the recommendation is to make the mind one-pointed, training it how to focus on a single principle or object. If the mind is focused, then it is far less likely to get entangled and lost in the mire of delusion that can come from these obstacles.

In The Secret Power of Yoga, Nischala Joy Devi recommends engaging in sacred practice on a routine basis. Given that similar themes are woven throughout the sutras, earlier Sutras set this foundation:

Yoga Sutra 1.12: Consciousness is elevated by Abhyasa (Devoted Practice) and Vairagya (Remembering the Self).

–  Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga

These concepts work hand-in-hand, as we access our true nature through devoted practice, we remember are reminded of true nature and strengthen our identification with it — rather than identification with external influences. These practices cultivate happiness, joy, and bliss that is reflected inward and outward. With time, the duration of this state is expanded. These ideas are repeated — yet built upon in the following sutras:

Yoga Sutra 1.21: To the dedicated and devoted, the Divine truth is revealed.

Yoga Sutra 1.23: Boundless love and devotion unite us with the Divine Consciousness.

Yoga Sutra 1.24: The Divine Consciousness is self-effulgent like the sun.

Yoga Sutra 1.25: The Divine is the essence of all knowledge, wisdom, and love.

–  Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga

The Sutras are clear — these qualities are within us and around us — and once again, the Sutras underline that with devotion to practice, the inner luminosity of the sun and Divine Consciousness radiates from within us.

The Sutras then provide us with four keys to maintain our happiness & radiance:

Yoga Sutra 1.33: Practice four types of attitudes towards people, including friendliness or lovingness, compassion or support, happiness or goodwill, and neutrality or acceptance.

The Sutras then provide us with additional support to maintain our happiness & radiance — through meditative practices:

Yoga Sutra 1.39: Concentrate, practice meditation with any focus.

One of the beautiful aspects of Yoga is its complete inclusivity, expressed through this Sutra. While the Sutras do provide specific examples of methods to achieve a meditative state for those of us who appreciate more structure — the Sutras also give us full freedom to find any method we choose that raises our consciousness and opens our heart.

With ongoing practice and devotion, we reclaim our natural state and see the interconnectedness woven throughout all of humanity + nature — Samadhi. 

Yoga Sutra 2.42: From contentment (Santosha), there flows the most excellent happiness and delight.

Happiness, contentment, inner stillness, and luminosity become free-flowing, and always available for us to access.