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Yoga Sutras for Modern Day Life: 4 SOS Signals In Your Yoga Practice

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:31: Suffering, frustration, trembling of the body,and disturbed breathing result from mental distractions.

Defining the Sutra

Suffering, frustration, trembling and erratic breathing are an SOS from the mind and the body that something is wrong.


Modern Day Application

The yogi seeks to live a fully awake, present and connected life on and off the mat. Our yoga practice shows where we have lost connection and/or fallen back into unconsciousness. Patanjali gives a few symptoms to look out for.

Suffering and Frustration- Suffering and frustration are a sign of a gap between who you truly are and where you are right now. See how you can close that gap.

Suffering, in the physical practice, usually results in two extremes. A practitioner who has lost all hope, gives in to suffering, and puts forth very little effort or one who pushes to hard and puts in to much effort hoping that it will get rid of their suffering.

Both responses are undesirable for a yogi.


sthira sukham asanam  -Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:46

स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥

sthira-sukham-āsanam ||46||

Practicing yoga with strength and in a relaxed manner gives rise to harmony with the physical body (asana). ||46||

sthira = (nom. sg. m.) strong; steady; stable; motionless
sukham = (acc. from sukha) comfortable; ease filled; happy; light; relaxed (


Suffering and frustration takes us away from sthira and sukham. Self study or svadyaya should be done until the source of this frustration is uncovered.



Trembling of the Body-During asana, pranayama and meditation, the body should be still and composed. This is a state that is cultivated over time.  Our lifestyle has to support the attainment of this state. A body that is strong and fit and a mind that is focused does not tremble. If trembling starts to show up in an established practice, one that has been done for a long time, with devotion, and without stop (Yoga Sutra 1:14), focus on strengthening the body and mind.

Erratic Breathing

This is the number one sign of distress, a loss of sthira and sukham, and a loss of focus in a the  yoga practice. Steady breath is a sign that an asana, meditation technique or pranayama has been mastered. Take notice of the times when your breathing becomes erratic. These are the places that need more focus.


Why It is Important

These SOS signals should be looked at and not avoided. Instead of quitting, switching practices or avoiding postures, take  a moment to take a closer look at the suffering. Where is it coming from? Where does it lead to? What is it pointing to? This can prevent suffering in the future.

When the breath grows erratic, resist the urge to mouth breathe or take quick shallow breaths through the nose. This taxes the body, energy is lost, stamina is lowered and  the practice quickly devolves and gets sloppy. A sloppy practice unsupported by breath, leads to injury, suffering and frustration.

A trembling body is a sign that their is weakness in the nervous system, the body or the mind. Focus on strengthening the affected areas.

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