Yoga is a study of cause and effect; the way desires and results so often differ. It is a study of the effects of our actions upon our consciousness and the way the residue from our actions propels us to further action. This in turn causes us pain and suffering in our lives. What we want and what we get are most often worlds apart.
In the Yoga sutras Patanjali identifies:
The cause of pain is the association or identification of the seer with the seen and the remedy lies in their dissociationSutra 2:17. BKS Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Thorsons 2002, p. 124
Patanjali indicates that pain ensues when we identify with our experience. A car battery goes flat and we suffer because of a missed meeting; or something we desire remains unfulfilled and we suffer. The pain exists in the lack of fulfilment not the battery. The remedy lies in recognising the way we link ourselves to objects of the world (the seen) through our desires. In effect, our Yoga Practices should provide the means to study cause and effect – how the underlying intention of our actions contains unspoken desires and fears. In studying cause and effect, our actions become harmonious and integrated and we suffer less.
In the Yoga sutras Patanjali both details what he knows about the process of human development and learning and explains the practices involved in coming to this understanding. Practice based knowledge has certainty and accuracy. Patanjali’s work is therefore not a set of theories, as theories relate to ideas or conceptions that have not been confirmed. Patanjali is sharing his knowledge from experience and explaining his practices so that others can also undertake them and find out the truth of what he is saying. In this sense, the sutras contain details, proven by practice, about the way people learn and evolve.