The Problem with the Yoga Sutras

  • Mindy Arbuckle SOULutions Coaching

Blog by Mindy Arbuckle SOULutions Coaching

In my previous post I gave you a brief history of the yoga sutras and who wrote them, Sri Patanjali. Most people are introduced to the Yoga Sutras through their Yoga Teacher Training. Today, I want to provide clarity around how I believe YTT’s are not giving a complete look at this book.  They are giving a disservice to their students.  So many students leave their YTTs with confusion around the sutras instead of clarity. Here’s why.

How I Was First Introduced to the Yoga Sutras

Like many people who study the Yoga Sutras in the West, I originally did so with my Yoga Teacher Training. They told me to bring a copy with me. So, I found the only copy I could at the time in Anchorage, AK (that was before online shopping was common) and jetted off for training. I tried reading it before I got there but found it impossible. I think many can relate to this.

You see, the Yoga Sutras are written in Sanskrit almost like poetry. Translating poetry from one language to the next is difficult to say the least. Plus, Sanskrit words hold energy and can have many translations. They need to be studied with a teacher that has embodied the essence of this vidya or wisdom.

With my YTT we took a one day with the Sutras -- which wasn’t nearly enough. My teachers related what they knew in their heads about the Sutras, but I didn’t feel like they knew it in their hearts. At the end of the day, I felt like I barely scratched the surface of them.

Having said that, I started the process of having a better understanding of who I was and why I was here because I had a teacher guiding the way. I had a glimpse of clarity amid the clouds. There was still so much I didn’t know! I felt like it was a guidebook that reflected how I had been living my whole life. And here I was, no longer alone on my path and yearning to learn more. I needed more! My passion for my Self inspired me to keep studying on my own and with other teachers. I continue to this day gaining wisdom and embodying my light.

Why Are Yoga Schools Missing the Point?

So many people read parts of the Sutras in their YTT and leave without that passion for themselves and a desire to learn more. What a shame!

I felt the connections almost from the get go. I knew it would deepen my yoga practice and improve my life. Yet, many people fail to see the connections between this ancient book and how we practice yoga today. Such a travesty!

They study a few stutras in their YTT and feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the philosophy they just dabbled in. Many trainings only spend a couple hours on the subject! By spending just a few hours they generalize the whole book. Then by generalizing they are saying the Sutras are about controlling the mind as a means of self-actualization. Which simply doesn’t apply to the way we practice body-oriented yoga today.


The problem with the Yoga Sutras is that they are complex and need time to digest them. They don’t give instant gratification. And they ask you from the very beginning to live in the present moment. YS 1.1 Atha Yoga Nushasanam. “And now, in this very moment we begin to study and practice yoga.”

Are you ready?

See you on the inside,

Mindy Arbuckle