I’ve always been a doodler. Drawing shapes in the margins of my notebooks, scribbling designs on scraps of paper, tinkering with fonts on discarded envelopes and cocktail napkins—doodling calms my mind and relaxes my nervous system. So when my father became ill several years ago and I had a hard time focusing on a writing project, I started to doodle. Aimless patterns began to take shape, first in the margins of my manuscript. Later, these whimsical musings claimed their own notebook. Playing with flowers, leaves, and fonts, I began to ponder—if I couldn’t write because of stress, perhaps I could direct my doodles into something more purposeful and satisfying.
In my search for novel ways to deepen my yoga practice, so I started dabbling with the aphorisms of the Yoga Sūtras by the Indian sage Patañjali. The most authoritative and widely-read text on yoga, the Sūtras offers the reader a set of practical instructions for living a deeply meaningful life. It’s a collection of 196 short statements sewn together—sūtra literally means “thread”—into four distinct chapters. Patañjali’s pithy text has had vast influence on the Indian philosophical traditions for several millennia, especially on yoga philosophy and its practices.
The Yoga Sūtras has enticed me for more than 25 years into its study, and here was a way for me to flirt lightly with the text. I began to envision an entire book of doodles of the Sūtras, one that would draw upon my playful side and also on my love of Madhubanī, the folk art of northern India. This vibrant folk tradition is awash with colorful geometric patterns combined with symbols of fertility, imagery of Indian mythology, and religious iconography. Common motifs in Madhubanī art include birds, fish, elephants, trees, lotus flowers, deities, and sacred symbols. Some of the very things I love to doodle! Although these doodlings were originally intended for my own use, I began to share them with family and friends. The response was overwhelming—these drawings need to be published! The result is the coloring book that you now hold in your hands.
A radical departure from the “normal” way of studying the Yoga Sūtras, this coloring book is designed to encourage a more lively and playful exploration of the text. The student engages with each sūtra through the act of “purposeful” coloring, creating the space to go deeper into this profound and enduring text. Studies have shown that color itself activates attention and contributes to enhanced memory performance, while the simple art of coloring engages the mind, body, and senses. Coloring has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve motor skills and vision, strengthen focus, and is even said to better one’s sleep. It also stimulates different parts of the brain, and fosters fresh ways of knowing and learning.
The act of coloring encourages the student to stay focused on the text in the meditative mode of listening, reflecting, and absorbing. Thus, coloring the Sūtras becomes a contemplative practice in its own right: You sit comfortably with the text. Breathing slowly, you read a sūtra and its translation. As you color, you let your mind settle into the words and the illustrations. You listen and open yourself up to deeper layers of the text that the act of coloring reveals. Like the practice of yoga postures and breathing, purposeful coloring of the Yoga Sūtras induces a meditative mind—one that Patañjali himself advocates—and literally brings the power of the Sūtras to your fingertips.
So, sharpen your colored pencils and find a quiet place to fill in the gorgeous black and white spaces of the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali Coloring Book Series. Let the sublime journey into the Sūtras begin.