Maharshi Patanjali is a well honoured name in India and the world, mainly because he is the author of Yoga Sutra the one and only complete book on yoga. Yoga is growing more popular both in India and abroad. The Sanskrit word yoga refers to a physical, mental and spiritual discipline intended to reach an ecstatic stage of perfect inner vision. That is why it is also interpreted as ‘union’ (with the Absolute). Yoga is one among the six systems of Indian philosophical schools of thought.
Patanjali is considered the father of Yoga and it is he who developed the doctrines and rules mostly based on the teachings of Upanishads (part of Vedas). Much is not known about this great sage who is supposed to have lived around 250 to 500 BC. There is a traditional belief, which says that Patanjali is self-born and was a highly-evolved soul who incarnated on his own will in a human form to help humanity. The present records on him are mostly based on legends. It is also believed that he lived in Tamil Nadu state of India, at a place near Trichy. Several seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilisation sites, dating to the mid 3rd millennium BC, depict figures in positions resembling a common yoga or meditation pose, suggesting a precursor of yoga. The same Patanjali is also attributed to have written a few other authentic books also but they are all still a matter of dispute and confusion.
In his Yoga Sutra, which is the most condensed traditional outline of the yogic path, he has presented a set of 196 sutras or principles of yoga. They also describe the moral and physical disciplines needed for the soul to attain absolute Bliss or freedom from the body and self. Patanjali’s yoga is directed towards a supreme soul. Undoubtedly, his teachings promoted exploration of the inner self. The Indian epic Mahabharata has reference to Yoga and Gita mentions about three kinds of yoga. He established an eight-stage discipline of self-control and meditation under Raja Yoga which is popularly known as Ashtanga Yoga. The eight limbs are Yama (non-violence, ethics and restraint), niyama (acetiscism and cleanliness), asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and finally Samadhi (oneness in eternal quality).