Where oh Where Does Patanjali Mention Vinyasa in the Yoga Sutras?

What if someone was to ask you (very likely): Hey! where does Patanjali ever say anything about vinyasa?  Maybe even with a threatening tone or something, doubting your yoga knowledge to the point of making your serpent spine shake. What then?

Vinyasa is the linking of the breath with each movement while practicing asana or poses. It is sacred. It must happen for the practice to be effective.

And where oh where did Krishnamacharya get that from? how did he and his guru gather this tiny bit of information from the 2000 year old Yoga Sutras?

As you know sutra 2.46 is the most famous sutra in the world (make that in my world):  2.46 Sthira Sukham Asanam, or: Sitted position should be comfortable and steady.

Say it out loud, it feels good:  Sthira Sukham Asanam!

That, my yogis, is pretty much everything that Patanjali said about asanas or poses, which we ashtangis -led by Jois and family- take to a whole new level (as in 6 series of them!).

Now, the reason why Patanjali did not elaborate on the poses is simply because:
a) There were other texts on asanas, so people could look those up to learn about them. And
b) He wrote his work with impeccable grammar and to be memorized and passed through the generations. I still have not been able to memorize the whole thing and he knew that someone like me was in the future cards, therefore brevity was of the essence.

But still, no mention of vinyasa.  That is UNTIL, the next sutra:

2.47 prayatna saithily anantasam apattibhyam, or: Effort should be accompanied by smooth breath


I was blessed to actually have Ramaswami himself (he studied with the big K for 30+ years) illuminate the point. This is what he said via e-mail:

Sri T Krishnamacharya had said in his Yoga Makaranda (read it here for free) and also in Yoga Rahasya that full benefits of yogasana cannot be obtained without vinyasas.  Regarding the Yoga Sutra reference it would be about the use of breath in the practice of asanas. The interpretation of the terms in the sutras “sthira, sukha, prayatna saitilya and aananta samapatti” the four paramenters mentioned. These refer to comfort, steadiness, smooth breathing and focus on the breath while practicing asanas which is the way Sri TK taught me vinyasa practice.

In his book Yoga For the Three Stages of Life, he also says:

… Hence the word prayatna should be taken to mean “the effort of breathing”. And it should be made smooth (sithila, from which comes saithilya, relaxation).  Thus during the practice of asanas, the breath should be smooth and in my teachers’ system it is therefore mandatory to stop one’s practice and to rest when the breath is not smooth. shortness of breath is associated with a fragmented mind

So there you have it!  should someone ask you with malicious intent or not, you can tell them that in Sutra 2.47 both Krishnamacharya and his guru derived the need for vinyasa:

…Just as music without harmony and melody will not be enjoyable, so also asana done without vinyasa will not confer health on the practitioner. Such being the case, how can we expect long life, strength, etc. if you do not follow the stipulated rules and disciplines. (Krishnamacharya in Yoga Makaranda)

Matthew Sweeney has the best pictures on all the vinyasas for the series of Ashtanga
Following the Yoga Sutras on How to Deal with Crappy People
Keeping it Real: 8 Things You Need To Know About the Eight Limbs of Yoga

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10 Responses to Where oh Where Does Patanjali Mention Vinyasa in the Yoga Sutras?

  1. Grimmly July 25, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    Wonderful post Claudia, do love how you bring things together and lay it out so clearly.<br /><br />I think this bit about the breath being smooth is what leads Ramaswami to be a little critical of Ashtanga as an approach to asana. If you see a lot of ashtangi&#39;s out of breath and panting through the second half of their series then you do have to ask what&#39;s going on, nothing smooth about

  2. Grimmly July 25, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    Oh and which edition of the sutras is that, love it.

  3. Claudia July 25, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    Hi Grimmly, He did mention something like that, and there is no way that a mysore room would encourage anyone to take savasana in the middle of series, not that I know of, so I suppose it rests on individual effort to really pay attention and slow down so that the breath can be the queen of the practice…<br /><br />It took me years to smooth things out with primary, and it is still not perfect,

  4. YogaforCynics July 25, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    I always figured it was mentioned in an out-take that would show up on the Yoga Sutras: Deluxe Edition, along with the part where he mentions coffee…

  5. Linda-Sama July 25, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    great post!<br /><br />I am so fortunate to have met Ramaswamiji so early in my teaching career…he inspired me to go to KYM.<br /><br />Am also fortunate to be able to study with AG Mohan next year in India. Will be interesting to see how the teaching styles of Mohan, Ramaswamiji, and Desikachar compare….

  6. Claudia July 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Yoga for Cynics, that is funny, I am almost tempted to create such a Deluxe Edition 🙂 and the coffee had me cracking up<br /><br />Linda that is a very fortunate and I hope you blog about the styles variations and similarities, it will be a revelation for sure to hear your impressions.

  7. Nobel July 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Great post, Claudia! Actually, in Astanga Yoga As It Is, Matthew Sweeney quotes Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta: <br /><br />&quot;O Yogi, do not do asana without vinyasa.&quot;<br /><br />The trouble with this quote, of course, is that it comes from the Yoga Korunta, which has been eaten by ants! 🙂 And I also don&#39;t know what the status of the Korunta is in the yogic canon relative to the

  8. Claudia July 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    Hi Nobel, yes, shame about the Korunta, I am thinking of writting a novel in which a yogi discovers the old lost copy, half eaten by ants, and then there are all sorts of conspiracies around her… hee hee<br /><br />As per the breathing, we were JUST talking to Martina about this, and she even remembers someone asking Sharath that same question, in terms of &quot;is it really true that your

  9. adan July 25, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    i think your thought sequencing is really &quot;on&quot; with this -<br /><br />but ultimately, for me, the references to the past don&#39;t convince<br /><br />that the sutra&#39;s, or their interpretation thereof, today, continue to work, does…<br /><br />as does all the contemporary fitness research conjoined with safe effective practice (which i&#39;m still very much learning)<br /><br />

  10. Claudia July 26, 2011 at 5:40 am #

    Adan, I hear you.