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Yoga Sutras For Every Day Life: Verbal Delusion in the Yoga World

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Book 1 vs 9: If an image arises when you hear words, and that image is not based on reality, it is verbal delusion



Verbal delusion is misconception with words. In the last segment of Yoga Sutras for everyday life, I talked about misconception. Please go here for the full post. Language is necessary in this world but it is also problematic. Once language is allocated to something, most people’s ability to experience it in its pure unadulterated form is lost.

Years ago, my family took a vacation to Mexico. The resort promised great food and good entertainment. We were thinking, it is Mexico. There will be awesome Mexican food and a rocking Mariachi band. When we showed up to the dinner show, it was American food and Disney music. I am not kidding. The entertainers were American and they sang, “A Whole New World” from Aladdin as well as other Disney songs. We were extremely disappointed.  We suffered from verbal delusion. We pictured something, due to words that we interpreted wrong, that was not reality.


Modern Day Application:

The word “yoga” brings up so much verbal delusion. From that one word, some people imagine meditation, candles and soft voices. While others imagine a hot room with a half dressed instructor yelling at the front of the room. The Sutras caution us to deal in reality only. To be present and withhold judgement  and action until we are sure of what is real.

Ashtanga is full of verbal delusions. Do this exercise with yourself. Read the words below and take note of the first words that come up.


Third Series



Leg behind the head

6 days a week

The next pose


Now ask yourself, were those words based in reality, or where they your opinion and your experience of the practice?


When a newbie sees these words they may think:



Third Series-never happening


Adjustments-please don’t come over here

Leg behind the head-insanity

6 days a week– yeah, right

The next pose– finally


Someone else may think:


Ashtanga-Great workout

Third Series-yippie! I am like so advanced right now

Marichyasana-can do it in my sleep

Adjustments-more please

Leg behind the head-so advanced. looks great in pictures

6 days a week– of course. How else am I going to stay skinny?

The next pose– finally


The fact that two different people can have such very different opinions on one practice is a sure sign of verbal delusion. Opinions color the actual experience and are barriers to a complete understanding of yoga.

Examples of things in Ashtanga that are not verbal delusion:

Primary Series is a series of Ashtanga yoga

Sharath and Saraswathi are the current lineage holders for the practice.

Moon days are observed as rest days.

All of these are true across the board when it comes to Ashtanga.



Why It Is  Important:

On that trip to Mexico, our misconceptions of what the resort was supposed to be, caused us unhappiness. If we would have been open to the moment, maybe we would have enjoyed what was there. Happiness is maintained by being present for whatever and then making a firm decision based on what is in front of you, instead of what is in your mind. If your life is based on verbal delusions, 2 +2=5. What you want and what you get never adds up and happiness always alludes you.



Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail