Who was Patanjali and what is he known for?


f you have practiced yoga for any amount of time, you have probably heard mention of Pantanjali or at least his practices.  He wrote the basis for the yoga practices we have today and why yoga is taught the way it is. However, his intentions were always more than just stretching and getting fit.

Pantanjali was an author and a sage who lived somewhere around the second century BCE. While not much about him is known, what we do know is he wrote many things, one of the most influential being the Yoga Sutras. He is often called the “Father Of Yoga.”

(Source: Britannica)

Without Patanjali’s written beliefs of Yoga Sutras, it is likely that we would not have practices like yoga that allow us to connect our mind, body, and spirit into one practice. While we can’t definitively prove that Patanjali invented or started yoga, the basis of yoga is everything Patanjali believed and worked for

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Who Was Patanjali, And What Is He Known For?

Patanjali was a great philosopher and author that began a movement with his written works, Yoga Sutras. While, at the time, he did not know how impactful his writings were, they have grown and become the basis for a few things we do today.

The Yoga Sutras is a collection of teaches that intend to help others get to different levels of completeness within themselves or self-realization. It categorized thoughts into eight different yogic levels such as:

  1. Yama
  2. Niyama
  3. Asana
  4. Pranayama
  5. Pratyahara
  6. Dharana
  7. Dhyana
  8. Samadhi

These are the basic thoughts that have evolved into the practice of yoga that we have today. These steps outline the practices of connecting your mind, body, and spirit to achieve oneness within yourself or with a higher power. You do this through minor positions that help align your body.

Why Is Pantajali Called The Father Of Yoga?

Pantajali is referred to as the father of yoga due to his writings and teachings on different thought levels within your mind, body, and spirit. He categorized different self-realization through yogic thought and practice.

First, you had Yama, which outlined a basic rule book of what you should not do to begin or complete this journey and continue on with your life. These rules were:

  1. Ahimsa: No wish of violence or harm to any living organism.
  2. Satya: No lying, always tell the highest truth.
  3. Asteya: Don’t wish for things you don’t have.
  4. Brahmacharya: Sexual self-control or overcoming sexual desire. Often translated to celibacy.
  5. Aparigraha: Release possessiveness over material items and be willing to let them go.

Once you became comfortable with Yama, you then moved on to Niyama, which is the next step that outlines things that will help you achieve spiritual cleanliness. The things you must do are:

  1. Saucha: cleanliness of the heart, mind, and body.
  2. Santosha: To have contentment with your life without material things. Nothing in this world can make you happy. Everything you need is within you.
  3. Tapasya: Having self-restraint with things that are not a need in life. Restricting too much could interfere with Saucha.
  4. Swadhyaya: Self-awareness and Self- study. Always be willing to catch, admit and change wrongdoings of yourself.
  5. Ishwarapranidhana: Worship of the supreme self

Once you have adjusted and accepted those ways of living, you can move on to Asana, which is a physical limit or ability depending on how you look at it. This is the ability to sit with a straight posture without moving for long periods of time.

Keeping your posture or spine straight allows you to be able to control your energy and move it up to your spine with no interruptions. This is the next step which is called Pranayama. It allows you to control the energy you have in your body.

Once you can control the energy within your own body, you can focus on the interiorization of your own thoughts and what you focus your attention on. Controlling your thoughts and attention is the only way to move to the next step correctly.

Concentration and focus are of utmost importance when learning the highest level of self-realization, and Dharana is exactly that. You can not achieve the focus you need without first controlling everything else in your body then and only then are you able to achieve steadfast meditation or Dhyana.

Being able to meditate on God, or whatever higher power you choose to focus on, then allows you to achieve the last step in self-realization, Samadhi finally. Getting to this step allows you to achieve oneness with yourself and the outside world, spiritual or natural.

Two different types of Samadhi show the level or amount of oneness you have achieved. These are:

  1. Sabikalpa: Only having oneness while mediating, your ego is still there when meditation stops.
  2. Nirbikalpa: When your ego is gone forever, and you are always in a state of oneness.

(Source: Ananda, Yoga Point)

Was Pantajali A Buddist?

Pantajali was not a Buddist as far as anyone knows. Based upon his teachings and their history and root beliefs, it is assumed that he was more involved with the Hindu teaching.

However, most of Pantajali’s works were written in Buddist hybrid Sanskrit leading some theologians to believe he was closely aligned with the Buddist teachings as well. While it was not completely unheard of to be involved with two very different belief systems, it was uncommon in that time period.

Most groups who believed in one thing kept to themselves and did not share beliefs with other groups. If he did associate with multiple groups of belief systems, it is unknown as to how he was so grounded in both.

There is also the theory that Pantajali’s works were actually a collection of works from a large group of people, all stemming from several different backgrounds and beliefs. Unfortunately, we will most likely never know the full spectrum of how he collected and put together any of his theories.

(Source: Britannica, Hindu American)

3 Famous Quotes By Patanjali

Pantanjali had a large collection of quotes that have been passed down from generation to generation, as well as those that have survived by his writings. These quotes give us a glimpse into what his true beliefs were.

While there are several theories about whether Patanjali was a real person or a collection of beliefs and writings from a group of people, one thing they all agree on is the need for your mind, body, and spirit to be connected healthy, and taken care of.

“For those who have an intense urge for Spirit and wisdom, it sits near them, waiting” - The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali

Pantanjali had a belief that no matter who you were or how far away you were from oneness in yourself, you could still achieve it. The power of Spirit and wisdom from within yourself or your higher power is all around you, all the time.

The only difference between wanting Spirit and wisdom and actually having it is effort. If you put effort towards learning and focusing, you can achieve the wisdom that spiritualness brings.

(Source: Good Reads, Awaken The Greatness)

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties, and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

Patanjali understood, more than most people, that to be able to find yourself or connect with any higher power, you have to be inspired by something. Whether you use your past mistakes, achievements, or just push forward towards what you want in life, inspiration from either can allow you wisdom and enter into a deeper connection with your spirit.

Allowing yourself to dive deeper into a positive experience can allow you to connect with parts of yourself you aren’t even aware exists now. Simply waking up every day and letting the day happen to you instead of being the reason things happen is a huge shift in mindset that Patanjali believed.

(Source: Good Reads, Awaken The Greatness)

“It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed.”

Patanjali believed that if you practice something efficiently and regularly, it will create positive, long-lasting effects. In turn, you will create a habit that will stick with you for a while, only amplifying the effects.

Further understanding and connecting with the history of your practice can allow you to fully involve yourself in it and create better habits and practices that will stick with you for longer.

(Source: Good Reads, Awaken The Greatness)

Patanjali’s Influence On Yoga Still Today

Patanjali’s writings and beliefs still highly influence yoga today in its history and main purpose. Most yoga classes have a root in personal spirit, mind, and body connection, which was the same theory as Patanjali’s oneness with yourself.

Many of the basic stretches and positions are related back to the theory that you have to learn to sit in one position with your spine straight for a long period of time to align the energy in your body.

Patanjali’s basic outline of the Yoga Sutras allowed us to understand that aligning our body, mind, and spirit through focus, concentration, and selflessness was the way to a higher connection with ourselves and a higher power.

Many people believe that Patanjali was outlining more of a meditation practice than yoga, but yoga can also be used as a form of meditation as well. It’s good to know that no matter what, if it works for you and it’s keeping you healthy, it’s not wrong or incorrect.

You are free to use yoga or meditation as often or as infrequently as you prefer to achieve whatever goal you are going after however, Patanjali, and science, have proven that the more often you do something, the greater the impact it has on your life. You can still find many of Patanjali’s yoga techniques in online yoga and meditation classes

(Source: Britannica)


Patanjali is the writer and creator of the Yoga Sutras, which is theorized to be the basis for the practice of yoga we have now. The ability to “center” your whole self is the main intent that Patanjali wanted to achieve through focus, concentration, and posture, improving movements. Finding good anatomy books for yoga teacher training could help you learn and teach Patanjali’s techniques.

Now, while yoga is more than just sitting and correcting posture, it is believed that yoga was just an evolution of meditation or posture correcting forms that focused on using your energy to connect with a higher power.

(Once you learn all the correct forms and positions that Patanjali taught, you may be ready to take on Acro yoga for beginners. A new, fun, and exciting yoga!)

Caleb Sharbono is a writer, bio-hacker, wellness advocate, and yogi. Caleb, who grew up on a small Montana ranch, joined the Navy at 17 to study cryptology. He later graduated from the US Naval Academy with a Minor in Mandarin, a Bachelor's in General Engineering, and a Major in English Literature. Caleb's interests and career cover diverse industries and disciplines. Caleb lives in San Antonio and is a Certified Yoga Instructor. He is also studying Zen Buddhism, practicing Holistic Psychology, and working towards his 300-hour yoga teacher training.


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