Chapter 2 of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras is Sadhana Pada, the chapter about Practice. It focuses on concrete things one can do in order to diminish and eventually get rid of obstacles, which hold us away from recognizing the true Self. Specificaly, Patanjali describes Kriya Yoga and the first 5 of the 8 Paths of Yoga (8 limbs), known as Ashtanga Yoga.
The eight ways in which one expresses one’s action are: Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
There are five Yamas, which are like “Commandments” of Yoga, we shall keep them in mind and follow every second of the day:
- Ahimsa – is a rule of non-violence in any aspect: non-violent thought, word, action towards anyone and anything. This is the most important commandment.
- Sattya – means to be truthful, live a life of Truth inside and outside. Forgive yourself if you haven’t yet followed it through and practice meditation to live this Yama every day. If you wear a robe – make yourself worthy of it; often those in robes tarnish the religion, modify it to their own interpretation. Religions make total sense if read properly, Yoga is a spiritual path, same as religion.
- Asteya – is a rule of non-stealing in thought, word and deed – apart from not taking what belongs to someone else. For example stealing a word is misrepresenting, taking someone else’s word for your own, thus not being truthful.
- Aparigraha – means not holding to anything, non-coveting and non-hoarding, it is about releasing our attachments to our possessions, occupation, accomplishments and as well as our bodies.
- Brahmacharya – means to walk on the path of Brahman to obtain a complete freedom. The more one indulges in the senses, the more one gets lost in it, so to go away from that is to cause less confusion in oneself. One should not indulge in anything that diverts one from the path towards freedom, all sensual enjoyments.
The five Niyamas are habits or rituals which have to be performed every day:
- Saucha – means cleanliness, both of yourself, body and mind, and of your place.
- Cleanliness is Godliness. One who is not organized loses time.
- Santosha – is a contentment, appreciation of what you have, thanking existence for your body and all that has been given to you. It is a way to destroy stress, to be content with what you have a present. Express your gratefulness every day, through prayer, lighting incense.
- Tapas – is a right, focused and determined effort we should be putting into all daily activities.
- Svadhyaya –self-study means to make time to sit and meditate every day, to be quiet within and learn about oneself.
- Ishvarapranidhana – means to surrender to the Lord, have the qualities that you are surrendering to, the purity that one wants to become. We are unable to visualise the unlimited – omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent – in this mind, so we completely surrender to purity in thinking, word and action.
Yamas and Niyamas must be part of one’s life.
Asana, which is mentioned by Patanjali in only two sutras.
Sthira Sukham Asanam (Yoga Sutras II.46): Asana literally means seating posture and Patanjali indicates that it should be easy and stable. The goal of our practice is to bring the stability of both body and mind for meditation. There should be no struggle.
Prayatna Shaithilya Ananta Samapattibhyam (Yoga Sutras II.47), the goal of perfecting the posture is to relax and allow attention to connect with the endlessness. When there is a stability, one becomes as vast as the ocean and the consciousness is great. Hatha Yoga brings an increase in consciousness inside and outside. However, Asanas cannot take you further, in order to move further you need a practice of Pranayama.
The natural stopping of the breath, this is Pranayama (prana – breath, ayama – restraining). Normally the consciousness tends to be lost in the senses, but through mastering of the Prana one can bring it back. When you are totally one with the pranic force, which is indeed the life force, your breath automatically stops and in that moment there is an ecstasy. This is the end result of Pranayama.
When one is no longer lost in the senses, that state is Pratyahara. One becomes the master of the senses, not carried away by them anymore, not clinging to the external world.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Yoga master teacher Sharat Arora
Article derived from the Intensive Yoga Course at the
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Arambol, North Goa, 2003