Tag Archives: Yoga Sutras

The Kleshas (part 2 – Annamaya kosha)…

Anna means food, maya means appearance (usually illusory). All of the physical aspects of life come and go, and are consumed by another aspect of external reality. Thus, the outermost of the koshas is called the sheath of food, or Annamaya kosha. It lives by food and dies without it.

The Annamaya kosha is our physical body; our muscles and our bones, our ligaments and our tendons. This is the kosha most people are concerned about when they begin a yoga practice. They want increased flexibility, they want to tone up their muscles, they want to learn to relax their bodies, and they’re looking to gain strength, improve their balance and find stress relief.

In Vedanta practice, we train this aspect of ourselves, take care of it, and nurture it, so that we can both enjoy our external lives and go inward without it being an obstacle during meditation time. In meditation, we become aware of Annamaya kosha, explore it, and then go inward, to and through this and the other koshas.

The Kleshas (part 2 - Annamaya kosha)

The Annamaya Kosha forms the gross body. The primary way to impact this kosha is through asana. It is affected by the 5 kleshas as follows:

  • Avidya (Ignorance): The Annamaya kosha or gross body is mistakenly seen as the self which colors the Atman (the true Self) and in so doing hides or covers it. This ignorance must be removed before the yogi can proceed to discover their real nature and purpose.
  • Asmita (Ego): This thought form identifies with the gross physical body as the animator of that body, pervading the entire body-mind complex and reinforcing it by becoming attached to it. Recognizing the illusive nature of this klesha causes it to evaporate.
  • Raga (Attachment): This klesha is supported by our desire nature. All of us have experienced this attachment to the body pleasures, the patterns of acquisition that often follow and how easily this can lead to suffering.
  • Dvesha (Aversion): This klesha alludes to a physical identification with what we don’t like. Aversions emerge from previous bodily experiences of pain and suffering. It is the hate or fear which follows the experience of physical anguish or extreme discomfort and can lead to a host psychological afflictions.
  • Abhinivesha (Clinging to Life): This klesha can only increase our identification with our physical/bodily existence, resulting in a fear of bodily death which makes it even harder for us rise above, perceive or identify with our spiritual nature.

As these kleshas are recognized and dissolved (or cleared) from the Annamaya Kosha, the first step is taken. As the other koshas are cleansed of these afflictions, the Atman (or Self), which is indescribable, is gradually recognized and eventually realized by direct experience; this is the goal of Yoga meditation, Advaita Vedanta, and certain Tantra practices.

Stay tuned, next: Further exploration of each Klesha and how it colors the Pranamaya kosha.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Compassion and Yoga Are One

True compassion manifests as the sacred energy that flows through the heart chakra (Anahata chakra) to each and every living thing in the universe. Whenever it is accessed it enables us to feel a sense of oneness or unity with all. This is the goal and the essence of yoga.

Yoga students and teachers encourage compassion to blossom, becoming their inner guidance. This way it will constantly reminds them that it is not the perfection of a technique (or asana) that gives them the experience of Yoga, but the ability to access their own sacred energy.

Compassion is cultivated by observing our personal experience as we go through physical, mental or emotional hardships with an open heart and/or by perceiving the suffering of others with an open heart.

Whenever we experience a slight injury or pain, focus on allowing the awareness of that discomfort to expand, thus embracing and understanding those who live with chronic suffering or pain on a permanent basis. This expanded consciousness will aid tremendously in the development of compassion.

All the rules and structures that we have amassed will dissolve when we embrace another in their deepest suffering. This compassion then becomes the catalyst that allows the great yogic teachings to guide us in realizing that the physical body is simply a temple housing the Divine Self.

According to yoga philosophy and science, disease manifests not so much from physical forces, but from a disconnection with our source or spirit. Whenever we are able to recognize and realize who we really are, healing is accelerated.

When we study Patanjalis yoga sutras we see the reasons for this separation are defined in the Kleshas Sutra II-3; Avidya (ignorance of our true nature), is the prime cause of forgetting. Avidya is the individual cosmic hypnosis or illusion imposed on all forms that makes them express, perceive, and interact with one another as though each has its own separate reality. When we strive to become compassionate beings we realize our ability to help others is directly affected by our own belief in this most basic of concepts.

Compassion and Yoga Are One

By constantly refining and rediscovering the many yogic practices each person is able to gain the benefits of healing. Many times the actual healing was not solely a physical cure, but a rebalancing of the energies that flow through the body, the mind and the emotions, touching the spirit. This rebalancing enables everyone to gain a sense of peace and clarity, especially when making decisions and changes based on the highest level of healing.

Yoga is the creation of this balance of energies and it grants the natural intelligence of the body and mind to correct itself. It is for this reason that most of the gentle and compassionate practices can positively affect any disease or imbalance. By facilitating the alchemy of connecting hearts and souls with spirit, we remember that inherently, we are all one!

Ordinarily much of humankind is dumbfounded by the alluring participation of illusory sense experiences, and clings to various delusive material forms as though they were the reality, the cause and even the security of his or her existence. The yogi however, is ever conscious inwardly of the sole reality and spirit, and sees maya and avidya (universal and individual delusion) as merely a flimsy web holding together the atomic, magnetic, and spiritual forces that give him a body and a mind with which to play a part in the cosmic drama of the Divine’s creation.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Choosing a Qualified Yoga Teacher…

Not at this time and likely not in the near future, will any type of national or international certification program for yoga teachers exist (*see note below for clarification). This is due to the traditional nature of Yoga instruction. Since antiquity, Yoga has been transmitted from teacher to student on a one-to-one basis.  Comparatively recently, and mainly in the West, Yoga has begun to be offered to groups of students in a class format. The more advanced practices of Yoga are still the best when undertaken on a one-to-one basis, and only if you are fortunate enough to find a competent teacher who is willing to instruct you.

Any serious student seeking qualified instruction should avoid any Yoga teacher who views this science as a hobby or someone who reads a few books, takes a couple introductory Yoga courses and then decides to become a Yoga teacher. This can only work if they have spent sufficient time under the constant supervision of their own personal Yoga teacher. This relationship between teacher and student needs to be taken very seriously by both parties and can never be entered into lightly.

There are competent teachers available, but you may just have to search them out. When seeking a competent, qualified Yoga teacher there are certain minimum requirements to look for that they should demand of you as their student. Seven of the most basic ones follow:

1. Daily practice of Yoga asana (postures), breathing, and meditation. To make progress in Yoga a serious commitment to daily practice is necessary. Only when a teacher has this support will they be able to build the solid foundation of experience that is required before they can show others how to achieve that experience. This daily practice is also needed in order to maintain the strength and health necessary for the extraordinary demands of both teaching and learning.

2. Regular and frequent contact with a teacher is necessary simply because it’s impossible for a teacher to work effectively in a vacuum, and no one becomes so advanced in their practice that they do not need the guidance and support of their own teacher.

3. Study of the important Yoga texts; this is one of the five observances that are part of the essential eight "limbs" of Yoga practice (see #4, below). A teacher needs to have an intensive background of study that includes Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Bhagavad Gita, and other world philosophies that the student must be willing to learn.

4. The practice of ethical behavior which includes the five yamas (meaning "restraints"):

  • Nonviolence
  • Truthfulness
  • Nonstealing
  • Periods of celibacy
  • Nonhoarding

…and the five niyamas (meaning "observances"):

  • Purity
  • Contentment
  • Tolerance
  • Study
  • Remembrance

The yamas and the niyamas are the first two limbs in Patanjali’s system of classical Yoga (called "Ashtanga Yoga"). The remaining six limbs are:

  • Physical exercises (asana)
  • Breathing techniques (pranayama)
  • Withdrawal of the mind from the senses (pratyahara)
  • Concentration (dharana)
  • Meditation (dhyana)
  • Absorption, or ultimate union with the self (samadhi)

*Note: These eight limbs must be developed simultaneously. The ethical guidelines of the yamas and niyamas are a part of Yoga practice not simply for moralistic reasons but because they support and protect the student during the unfolding of personal experience in meditation. A teacher needs this support and protection for the same reasons as well as to help reduce the interference of personal ego in the teaching process. An ethical Yoga teacher conducts classes in a responsible, safe, and aware manner. They will never organize classes that are too large for each student to receive individual attention. They will never push students beyond their limitations. And of grave importance, sexual involvement with students is absolutely prohibited.

5. A healthy vegetarian or vegan (plant-based) diet. Although you do not need to be a vegetarian/vegan to practice Yoga, a Yoga teacher must conform to different and stricter standards. Someone who is taking responsibility for teaching others how to use Yoga meditation techniques must have developed the steadiness and nonviolent attitude that can only be attained through a vegetarian or vegan diet. It goes without saying that a teacher should not smoke or use drugs (other than prescription medication) or misuse alcohol.

6. Training in basic anatomy and the effects of Yoga techniques is very important. A teacher must be able to vary certain techniques according to each student’s ability and know how to coach and advise students with common medical conditions such as hypertension, arthritis, back problems and other disorders. A teacher should also be able to recognize when a student needs professional psychological counseling plus be familiar with community services that are available to help the student.

7. The teacher must have the ability to separate Yoga from religion and to teach their students the same. Yoga is not a religion; it predates Hinduism, as well as all known religious practices, and its techniques have been used throughout the world since before recorded history. Yoga is a systematic science of nonreligious, transcultural techniques which can help the practitioner to develop greater self-knowledge and awareness. The texts of Yoga are not scriptures but rather handbooks (or guidelines) of how to use the techniques safely and what kinds of experiences may possibly be expected.

Hopefully, this article will give you some idea of the qualifications that are generally accepted as important. Get a good solid base in your own practices while under the direction of a qualified teacher, read and study about Yoga practice and philosophy, and build strength, awareness, and health, including the adaption of a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you then would like to advance and become a teacher, remember, teaching is hard work, and if you try to do it without being in top condition physically and mentally, you will do a disservice both to yourself and your students.

*Note on certification: There's a difference between credentialing and certification and although certification has not yet achieved national/international recognition, Rae Indigo runs a highly credited certification school, recognized by the Yoga Alliance among others. Rae teaches 200 & 300 hour Yoga Certification. The focus of her trainings is teaching students to heal using yoga, and to create sequences that are effective for the group or individual being guided.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500 

Yoga Counteracts Stress & Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults, (3.1% of the U.S. population), in any given year, with women being twice as likely to be affected; this, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). The exact cause of GAD is elusive but there is plenty of evidence that both biological factors and life experiences, especially the stressful ones, are major contributors. And, GAD is only one of a variety of anxiety-induced diseases and disorders defined by the American Psychological Association, which include “Panic Disorder” & Agoraphobia and an exhaustive list of other phobias such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Social Anxiety Disorder and common depression. Together these disorders account for many more millions of Americans’ being treated each year placing an untold burden (and expense) on the healthcare system. Fortunately there is a treatment that is found effective for almost every single disorder listed and that is yoga practice.

The human nervous system is responsible for regulating reactions to perceived stress. It can be divided into two parts; the Central Nervous System (composed of the brain and spinal cord nerves), and the Peripheral Nervous System which includes the autonomic nervous system which we can look to specifically for stress regulation. This autonomic nervous system’s job is to run all the involuntary functions of the body (breathing, heart rate, digestion, endocrine (hormonal) release, etc.). We don’t have to think about these things the body just does them. The autonomic nervous system is further broken down into the Sympathetic Nervous System (which initiates the stress response), and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (which induces the relaxation response).

Opposite the relaxation response is the ‘fight or flight’ response (aka, hyper-arousal, or acute stress response). This response is left over from our ancestral past when we had to use huge amounts of adrenaline in times of real danger, like when we were about to be eaten dinosaur. In more modern times, this same response is often activated with any “perceived” threat, either real or imagined. As soon as the brain receives a signal that there is some “perceived” danger, it begins releasing a series of chemicals like a chain reaction. These chemicals can negatively affect every organ and system in the body, especially when they’re not vital to our survival, and subsequently be the cause of many disorders and diseases.

Back to Yoga practice; outlined in many yogic texts are some very simple tools that can be used to counteract these chain reactions, and modern science is beginning to mimic these teachings that were once found only in ancient and esoteric texts. The 1st of these tools is to create a quiet environment, both inside and out. There’s way too much to distract us from what is going on in our bodies these days, from television to video games, traffic, work demands, computers and cell phones and the list goes on and on. When we consciously chose to create an environment of stillness and peace, then we have taken the first step toward combating stress, anxiety and all the resulting disorders. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (Raja Yoga), creating this type of environment can be form of meditation in and of itself.

When our attention is taken away from distractions (including thoughts) we are able to focus on one singular thing and integrate “diffused” attention into a calm, steady one-pointedness that helps us find our natural balance. Once the mind has focused on one point (through concentration), the state of meditation can be entered into with ease. Whenever our mental state has become calm, the physiological responses of the body spontaneously follow, and the chain of stressful reactions is broken and we are empowered to choose our response instead of reacting to it unconsciously.

Over the centuries many yoga teachers and gurus have recommended the practice of developing a sort of “objective” state of mind, often referred to as developing a “witness” mentality. As we develop this witnessing self, we can undermine anxiety when it arises, plus we can consciously create a different chain reaction within the body/mind, one that is positive and calming. There are certain brain neurotransmitters (like endorphins) that have anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects, and as we consciously build those neural responses to different stimuli, we eventually reach a point where nothing can faze us. Regardless of how insane the world is, we stay balanced. This is the message of all the ancient sages of the yogic tradition.

Of related interest, click on: Managing Anxiety with Pratipaksha Bhavana

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Meditation on the “Feeling” of Being

A quick Google search of the WWW will quickly reveal just how many types of meditation there are available to practice, each with its own disciplines and techniques. The ultimate goal of each one of them is to go beyond practice and make them “seamless,” then they become your natural state. Seamless meditation is when there is no differentiation or separation between the meditative state and day to day life.

Most people begin meditating by learning to still their mind and make it peaceful, and this is good. Once their mind is still, they can become aware of what they feel. Feelings will then be recognized to exist within a hierarchy. At the top of this hierarchy are the most profound feelings; those of joy, love, bliss and happiness. By meditating on your feelings, a deeper sense of well-being gradually develops and transforms the lower, superficial feelings, like fear, anger, boredom, loneliness etc. into the feelings of love, bliss and deep joy.

Once the whole array of human feelings are available, sit quietly and meditate, focusing on the feeling of being. It’s obvious that you most certainly do exist. You might question exactly who or what you are, but that you do indeed exist, there can be no doubt. So remain sitting and contemplate on this fact that you exist. You’ll soon see that you don’t need to think to exist, you don’t even need to be awake to exist. Neither do you need to be aware of anything to exist. Therefore, gradually let go of everything else so that all that’s left is this feeling of existing, the feeling of “being.” Assume an attitude of indifferent to everything; lose interest in everything during this meditation, apart from that most basic feeling of simply being or existing. Resist the temptation to see yourself as being “something” and just stay with simply being. If it helps, you can ask “do I need this (or that) to exist?” If the answer is no, then immediately let it go. Gradually, silently and even without thoughts, feel what it is to simply be.

When you can relax your attention, releasing everything and letting your attention return to its very source, you’ll notice that as soon as you stop giving your attention to anything, there is no longer an awareness of any “thing.” Then you can simply rest in your “beingness,” just as you are. This feeling of “being” is always, already there, way before it became modified and diminished into lesser feelings such as those we experience in everyday life; i.e.; excitement, disappointment, satisfaction, frustration, lust, revulsion, certainty, doubt, interest, boredom, energetic, lazy, fear, anticipation, joy, sorrow, tenderness, anger, etc. the list could go on forever, but you get the idea. That most basic feeling, before any other feeling can arise, is the feeling of being. Relax your attention so that all you are aware of is this feeling of being, make it seamless, at least for the time. You will then realize that you’re abiding in the very source of yourself, the point where your existence originated – the Self.

Another way of approach is the Vedantic practice of Vichara or Self-Enquiry, which is to ask, “Who am I?” In the beginning you might try to answer this intellectually, but eventually and with persistent practice, you can feel the answer, and it comes from the heart rather than the head. So initially think about the question, then move on to feeling the answer and finally become the answer. This question will lead you to discover the sense of  “I Am” that we all have. Not “I am this” or “I am that” but simply “I am” without distinction or qualification. If and when we can feel beyond this ego-self, we can let go of the feeling of “I” and feel the mere “Am-ness” behind the “I am”. Resting in that “Am-ness,” all sense of separate identity evaporates and you are present as the feeling of being.

This may lead to a swoon of bliss and light. This light is the light of higher awareness and is the light by which all objects (and all lesser lights) are seen and known. It is through this light that feelings, the mind and all thought is known.

During our normal waking hours it is mostly our verbal, thinking mind that we identify with, without any sense of our original, inherent, true, happy, blissful and loving identity, the one that lies within, beyond and behind it. Once we are able to engage meditation on the feeling if being, our perspective will have been changed forever.

Of related interest, click on:  The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

More About Vairagya (Non-Attachment)

To continue where the last article (Abhyasa & Vairagya – the Two Pillars) left off…

*To review – Patanjali’s definition of non-attachment (vairagya) Sutra 1.15 – drista anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam – “When the mind is free from the desire even for objects seen, heard or described in a tradition (or in scriptures), it acquires a state desirelessness which is called non-attachment (vairagya).”

This word “drishta” (seen) in Sutra 1.15 (above) is also meant to include the attraction that we feel through all of our five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste). Whenever we have a pleasurable experience using these senses, we tend to develop a strong attachment for those objects, along with a strong desire to experience the same pleasure repeatedly. Then, when that pleasure isn’t available or for some reason or other we’re denied access, we become very unhappy, stressed out or even completely miserable and pain and suffering are the result.

In this sutra, “vishaya” represents the material objects which produce attraction and the attachment that follows. Desires and cravings may basically be classified in two ways. The first type result from our direct perception through the five senses. “Drishta’ (seen) refers to this kind. The second type are those that many orthodox Hindus expect to gain after being reincarnated, including the desire to go to heaven after death. But, according to most Hindu scriptures, this heaven is only a temporary abode and it is necessary to return to a human birth after spending karmically pre-determined time in heaven. In order to achieve Moksha (final liberation), even these desires must be transcended. Vairagya doesn’t mean the dropping of desires because of sickness or old age or some other dysfunction. Old men often lose their sex drive (for the time-being), but this is not vairagya. Vairagya implies a conscious, deliberate elimination of all desires which would lead to attachment. Contrary to popular beliefs, true vairagya cannot be attained by cutting yourself off from object (of the material world) and living in a cave. Real, true vairagya occurs as a direct result of conscious, spiritual evolution, which leads to the dawning of “viveka” (discrimination). Therefore, the consciousness of someone who has attained this degree of mastery over their senses has been termed as “vashikara samjna.”

It is extremely helpful to keep the concept of vairagya in your mind even while doing your own asana practice. For example, perhaps you are not quite able to touch your toes in Uttanasana (the standing forward-bending pose). But you don’t give up and one of the objectives of your asana practice may be to touch your toes in the near future so you set a goal of doing just that in one month’s time. When you are attached to the outcome, you will likely be severely disappointed and/or disheartened if you still aren’t able to touch your toes in the allotted time. Alternatively, if you are not attached to any specific outcome, you will continue to practice, free of any sort of judgment that would give rise to these negative feelings and you’ll then stand a much better chance of achieving your goal in a timely manner.

This concept of non-attachment has been dealt with in great depth in most of the Eastern religions. In one of the most often quoted shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita (2.47), Lord Krishna tells Ajuna: “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” All too often our actions (or non-actions) are motivated by some desired (or expected) outcome. Non-attachment doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t set any goals in our life, it simply means that we are not attached to the desired (expected) result of our actions. We only have full control over the actions that we engage, not over the outcome of these actions. Realizing this is where the value of non-attachment becomes apparent, we now can accept the results of our actions without any emotional turmoil. This attitude of non-attachment will help us greatly in our efforts to remain calm and peaceful in even when presented with life’s most difficult situations.

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Abhyasa & Vairagya – the Two Pillars

Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, gives us this definition of Yoga:

Yoga Sutra 1.2 – Yogash-chitta-vritti-nirodhah – “Yoga is the mastery (or control) of the modifications (fluctuations) of the mind-field.” For practical purposes, this sutra can be translated as; “yoga is the ability to remain calm in all situations in life”. When considering “all situations in life”, it implies that no matter how critical or desperate any situation may appear, yoga teaches us to learn how to stay calm and peaceful in spite of the disturbances (thoughts – both gross and subtle) occurring in the mind. A calm mind is a prerequisite to handling even the most difficult situations in life, effectively and efficiently. The opposite is also true; if we allow the mind to get unsettled, then any decision we make (or action that we take) will likely be ineffective, in fact, it may even be self-defeating and bring about negative results. In (sutras 1.12-1.16), Patanjali talks about the “two pillars of yoga practice” that will help us achieve that state of mental calmness that we are seeking; abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (non-attachment).

Sutra 1.12 – abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah – “These mental modifications (fluctuations of thought patterns) are restrained (stilled, quieted) through practice and non-attachment.”

Patanjali’s definition of practice (abhyasa) Sutra 1.14 – sah tu dirgha kala nairantaira satkara asevitah dridha bhumih – “Practice becomes firmly grounded when done for a long time, without a break (or interruption), and with sincere devotion.”

Note the three qualifications for “practice”:

  1. 1. Long time – long time could imply this entire life-time, but in a more practical sense, and because the purpose of yoga practice is to control the modifications of the mind, regularity is the key.
  2. 2. Without interruption: For example, if you plan to practice 2-3 hours per day when your current lifestyle may not permit that on a consistent basis you will probably have an intermittent practice and the regularity will be broken. It would be much better to pick an amount of time (and time of day) when you can maintain your regular practice religiously and without interruption. A shorter practice done on a regular basis is much more beneficial than to wait for a day or so when you can dedicate hours to continuous practice.
  3. 3. With sincere devotion: You need to be fully committed to the practice in order to fully appreciate the benefits that it will bring. Swamiji says: “As you choose your proper level of practice, and decide to do that daily, the attitude will come more easily. It is like having a little flame of desire in the heart for the fruits of meditation, and then slowly starting to experience those benefits. That little flame starts to grow slowly and consistently into a burning desire to guide your life in the direction of spiritual realization.”

Patanjali’s definition of non-attachment (vairagya) Sutra 1.15 – drista anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam – “When the mind is free from the desire even for objects seen, heard or described in a tradition (or in scriptures), it acquires a state desirelessness which is called non-attachment (vairagya).”

The Sanskrit word Vairagya is derived from the word Raga which is defined as the attraction (or desire) which arises due to pleasure associated with any object. Therefore Vairagya would mean the absence of any attraction towards (or desire for) objects which give pleasure. Vairagya also may include repulsion or dislike (dvesha) which arises as a result of distaste (or loathing) for any object. Both raga and dvesha are powerful disturbing forces which create the modifications in the mind-field, so it is extremely important for the practicing student or yogi to understand the significance of non-attachment as it is nearly impossible to achieve chitta-vritti-nirodha unless one can eliminate (or at least remain unaffected by) raga and dvesha. So, even to achieve a state of vairagya, continuous practice (abhyasa) is needed.

There is much more to be said about non-attachment (vairagya), but that will be discussed further in a future blog article.

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga as Science

The ancient view of where yoga and science meet has been considered “yoga as science,” what does this mean to you? It is common for people when they talk about yoga to speak of it as something to do with the physical body only. But yoga is much more, it’s a science that serves the body, breath, mind, soul, and ultimately, the entire universe itself. Yoga is simultaneously both practical and theoretical.

Patanjali codified, systematized, and/or arranged the already existing traditional yoga practices into the 196 concise statements called the Yoga Sutras. In doing so he was not trying to teach any particular religion. Yoga isn’t, and never has been, a new religion, and it does not support or condemn any religion. Yoga doesn’t insist that you become Hindu, or a Buddhist because it sees all the great religions as having come from one source.

Religions tell their followers what to do and what not to do, usually providing a set of rules (or commandments) that can never be fully satisfying. Yoga as science doesn’t tell you what to do or what not to do, but provides you with tools to learn how to be. Yoga as science helps you to realize both the known and unknown aspects of life, and that helps you to liberate yourself from pains and suffering by prompting you to attain that state which transcends pains and suffering.

Is it possible for someone living in this modern world to practice Yoga as science? Yes, once the fundamental principles of Yoga as science are understood and why Yoga as science should be practiced, the practice itself becomes easier. But first the decision must be made to enquire into yourself. You need to feel some necessity of finding who you really are without turning to anything external to you. There are millions of people, throughout the world, that are searching for Truth and Self-realization (religionists call it God).

So you begin to question life. When the mind begins to question, it’s an indication that there’s dissatisfaction. Life then becomes a question which continuously rises to the forefront. You feel the need to know something more, but you only have this tiny mind, which you try to use like a yardstick, to measure the vast universe and its multitude of mysteries.

No religion can be fully understood until you understand yourself, and once you understand yourself all the doors to higher knowledge begin to open for you. Patanjali offers something to dedicated seekers of truth and he insists the source of knowledge lies within you. The world and all its external knowledge can only inform and inspire you, perhaps giving some indication that there’s so much more to life. To spiritually evolve does not mean going toward any external world, instead it means going back to the very source. This source can be considered like a bright light, but it has many covers over it? The light remains as it is, but it will appear dim or invisible. As you remove the covers, you will begin to see it more clearly. That source of knowledge within can be compared to this light and yoga as science is a method and a guide to help you go through many obstacles to that source.

When practicing yoga as science all the different levels or layers of yourself are exposed, including your physical body’s well-being, your actions, thought processes, emotions, and desires. Your relationship with the world starts to take on a new meaning, and you learn how to manage your life in the world. Yoga as science establishes a bridge between the internal and external conditions of human life, it’s a way of improving yourself by understanding your mind’s processes and how they affect your internal states. Each and every one of us has the potentials within to discover who we are. Patanjali encourages the awareness of our potentials and provides us with the means to learn how to use them.

In Sanskrit, he word yoga means “union, or to unite with,” meaning you need to unite yourself with the whole. Currently you are probably a separate individual and as a result you are experiencing pain and suffering. Patanjali teaches that the cause of this misery is ignorance and ignorance is self-created and his yoga sutras teach that you can be free from this misery because it has been created by you.

You have to become a light unto yourself. No one else (or any religion) will give you liberation (or salvation). Every individual has the ability within (and the responsibility) to enlighten themselves. Do not think you cannot do it. You have that spark. You are fully equipped. You simply need to discipline yourself. Discipline is not a prison. It simply means practice.

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 18: Gaining Knowledge – Higher Truths, cont.)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Gaining Knowledge of Higher Truths, cont.; Sutras 1.49-1.51)

Yoga Sutra (1.49)shruta anumana prajnabhyam anya-vishaya vishesha-arthatvat. Shrutameans heard or received; Anumana (lit. from the mind), inference, understanding, conclusion; Prajnabhyam means from those kinds of knowledge; Anya-vishaya (anya = different, vishaya = objects), of different objects;  Vishesha-arthatvat means relating to particular or special objects, purpose, or significance.

Translated this means…Consciousness is characterized by a special “relationship” to the object. This relationship exceeds the bounds of knowledge that is received and followed.

In other words, that knowing is different from the knowledge that is intermingled with testimony or through inference, because it relates directly to the specifics of the object, rather than to the representative words or other concepts.

Commentary: The focus of nirvichara samadhi is directed toward an object with a special or particular purpose. That object is the deepest Self, and its special purpose will be more fully revealed in sutras 1.50 and 1.51. The Bhagavad-Gita implies that knowledge gained through scripture and logic (inference) is an important tool, but the importance of this tool should not be confused with what is crafted from it. Krishna says that for those “who know,” scriptural knowledge is like a well in a land deluged by fresh water. When we strengthen the connection to our true Self, our divine core, we learn to see that divinity in everything that surrounds us.

Yoga Sutra (1.50)tajjah samskarah anya samskara paribandhi. Tajjah means from this; Samskarah means deep impressions or tendencies; Anya is other, different; Samskara means deep impressions or tendencies; Paribandhi means to prevent or obstruct.

Translation… This type of knowledge is filled with truth and creates latent impressions in the chitta (mind-field), and those new impressions tend to reduce the formation of other less important or useful forms of habitual latent impressions. Put more simply, This experience gives rise to impressions (samskaras) that supplants other impressions (samskaras).

Commentary: Anya samskara (other impressions) gives a perspective to contrast this new sense of being with all that we’ve known before, and pratibandhi, from prati (in opposition to) and bandh (to bind, lock) is the “wiping out” or “exclusion” of these habitual ways of thinking and being from our future experiences.

Yoga Sutra (1.51)tasya api nirodhe sarva nirodhat nirbijah samadhih. Tasya is of that; Api means too or also; Nirodhe means to become calm, tranquil; Sarva is of all or from everything; Nirodhat means control, regulation; Nirbijah is lacking seed, seedless; Samadhih (from Samadhi) deep absorption in meditation, bliss.

Translated to mean…When even these latent impressions (mentioned in sutra 1.50) from truth based on knowledge recede along with the other (inferior) impressions, then there is concentration free from objects. Once nirbiija samadhi is attained, even these impressions will become tranquil and everything then has become tranquil.

Sutra 1.51 is the final and climactic sutra of Pada (book) I and for some may be a “hard pill to swallow,” especially those who have earnestly studied Patanjali’s preceding ideas and attempted to put them into regular practice. In these last few sutras, Patanjali informs us that we must put aside our highest, hard-fought-for achievements if we wish to reach the final goal.

*Part 17 may be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 17: Gaining Knowledge – Higher Truths)

*For part 16, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 16: Types of Engrossments, cont.)

*For part 15, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 15: Types of Engrossments)

*For part 14, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 14: After the Mind is Stable)

*For part 13, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 13: Stabilizing/Clearing the Mind, cont.) Links to parts 7 through 12 may be found at the bottom of part 13. Links to parts 1 through 6 may be found at the bottom of Page 7

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 17: Gaining Knowledge – Higher Truths)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Gaining Knowledge of Higher Truths; Sutras 1.47-1.48)

Yoga Sutra (1.47)nirvichara vaisharadye adhyatma prasadah. Nirvichara means beyond reflection or devoid of subtle thoughts (nir = without, vichara = subtle thoughts); Vaisharadye is experience, skill (with undisturbed flow); Adhyatma is the absolute, superior or spiritual  (regarding the Atman or true Self); Prasadah means clarity, purity or illumination.

Translated this means…As one gains proficiency in the undisturbed flow in nirvichara, a purity and luminosity of the inner instrument of mind is developed. More simply put: If you regularly experience the clearest of the four aforementioned states known as nirvichara samapatti, then you are about to experience a state of absolute clarity.

Commentary: Nirvichara samadhi is not the final goal. Instead it is a moment like taking a deep breath before jumping into an abyss. Traditional commentators say that just a glimpse of the true inner Self instantly shows us, that all the world we thought we knew was only a shadow realm constructed of our own hopes and fears. This experience of true Self-awareness, even if it is fleeting, gives us something more real than all that we previously believed was reality.

It is easy to get trapped into thinking that the goal of yoga practice is to seek out and hold onto this understanding of the deepest Self. But Patanjali and other sages say, “No.” This hard-won treasure, one that is so rare that few experience, must itself be relinquished to something even bigger, because even clinging to the most pure and “luminous” understanding of ourselves still maintains a separation from all others. The Bhagavad Gita says that this “inner shining” or sattva, as true and pure and deep as it seems, still binds us and separates us from the Divine Absolute.

Yoga Sutra (1.48)ritambhara tatra prajna. Ritambhara means filled with higher truth (ritam = truth, bhara = full, pregnant; Tatra is there or then; Prajna means true knowledge, wisdom or insight.

Translation…Then consciousness will be filled with only the truth. Along with the purity and luminosity mentioned in the last sutra (1.47), which came from proficiency in nirvichara, there also comes a wisdom that is filled with the higher truth.

This sutra implies that we are to understand that there are a variety of types of knowledge or wisdom. We must also realize that the wisdom of nirvichara samadhi the not the only valid form.  Vyasa says that insight is gained from three valid sources: scripture, logic, and meditation. Other sages go on to say that the “eager practice” of all three paths of knowledge is needed. But most commentators agree that all types are not of equal value, although the different ways of knowing each have their place.

Next we will continue with yoga sutra 1.49 where Patanjali will emphasize the differences between the insight of deep samadhi and the other ways of knowing or understanding. But he still will not invalidate all the other sources of knowledge. As we progress, moving from place to place, whether in our lives, our minds, or our hearts, the kind of wisdom that will helps us changes with each stage.

*Part 16 may be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 16: Types of Engrossments, cont.)

*For part 15, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 15: Types of Engrossments)

*For part 14, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 14: After the Mind is Stable)

*For part 13, click on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 13: Stabilizing/Clearing the Mind, cont.) Links to parts 7 through 12 may be found at the bottom of part 13. Links to parts 1 through 6 may be found at the bottom of Page 7

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.