Tag Archives: pranamyama

The Kleshas (part 3 – Pranamaya kosha)…

Prana means energy, maya in this case means body or vehicle. The Chinese call it Chi, the yogis Prana or life force. Prana moves around the body through channels, called nadis. Some 72,000 reportedly, but who counted them, nobody knows. When we practice asana and pranayama, we are affecting Pranamaya kosha.

Prana enters into the body not only through food and water, but it also comes into the body via of the breath. One of the major benefits of yoga is that we become more and more conscious of our breathing, and eventually we learn to take proper deep breaths. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing, complete yogic breathing, and alternate nostril breathing are specifically designed to enhance the proper functioning of this second sheath. This leads to an increase of prana into our system which literally makes us feel more alive plus it invigorates and powers Pranamaya kosha.

Additionally, getting plenty of fresh air and sunlight is essential for maintaining the health of the vital force. Yoga texts often refer to the sun as the ultimate source of Prana.

The Kleshas (part 3 - Pranamaya kosha)...

The Pranamaya Kosha forms the energy body. The primary way to impact this kosha is through breathing. It is affected by the 5 kleshas as follows:

  • Avidya (Ignorance): When the Pranamaya kosha or energy body has mistakenly identified the Atman with Prana, mind and/or intellect, it is impossible to discover the Atman’s true nature which is entirely distinct from this and the other four sheaths. This identification must be transcended before the yogi can proceed to discover their true Self.
  • Asmita (Ego): When the ego becomes aware of the Pranamaya kosha and identifies with it, this prevents the exploration of it and the proceeding inward, to and through it to the remaining three koshas.
  • Raga (Attachment): As Pranayama energizes the Pranamaya kosha it can become a rapturous experience that we easily become attached to. To explore the deeper aspects of Prana and Pranayama, we will need to achieve a state beyond the fluctuations of the ego, ordinary senses and the mind.
  • Dvesha (Aversion): Sometimes attempting to going beyond the Pranamaya kosha seems like an epic fail and we may worry that we’re not anywhere near “getting it,” and maybe we still find altering our breathing to be surprisingly stressful. This creates aversion and it can be overcome by persistence and regular practice.
  • Abhinivesha (Clinging to Life): This klesha will increase our identification with our energy body, resulting in a fear somewhat like suffocating. To overcome this identification we can practice a deep and abiding acceptance of our mortality. Whenever we refuse to cling we prepare ourselves to transcend this and the next three sheaths.

As noted in my last post as these kleshas are recognized and dissolved (or cleared) from the Pranamaya kosha, the next step is taken. As the remaining 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 Manamaya kosha.

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 

The Importance of the Breath in Yoga

Why is proper breathing stressed so much in yoga? Other than the fact that it keeps us alive, why is the link between yoga and breathing so important?

During a typical yoga class, we are instructed to practice pranayama, which means we breathe consciously, remaining connected to our breath, we learn to breathe deeply, retain our breath, etc. How much of an impact does proper breathing have on us, our life, and our yoga practice?

Breathing and longevity – Swami Sivananda is quoted as saying: “A yogi measures the span of life by the number of breaths, not by the number of years.”

I much of traditional Hindu literature it is said that if you breathe 15 times per minute, you will live to be 75 or 80 years old, but if you breathe only 10 times per minute you will live to 100. So the speed at which you breathe will determine the length of your life. The faster you breathe the shorter your life will be. That’s why animals that breath fast (dogs and cats for instance) have relatively short lives.

Breathing Consciously

Breathing consciously is something we are continuously reminded to do when we are in yoga class. Breathing consciously is essential to yoga practice because it assists us in connecting with the subtle energy within. Pranayama enables us to navigate different levels of consciousness. Additionally, by breathing consciously we’ll create a positive biological effect on our mental, emotional, and physical states of being.

Remaining connected with our breath is an ideal method for being in the present moment. When you focus on each aspect of the breathing process, you are present, you let go of the both the past and the future and are concentrated on each moment within each breath. Breathing consciously becomes its own form of meditation. But this is only part of why conscious breathing is so important.

Remaining consciously aware of your breathing activates a different part of our brain than our normal, mechanical (unconscious) breathing, which is controlled by the medulla oblongata in the brain stem (the primitive part of the brain). Conscious breathing, on the other hand, comes from a more evolved area of the brain (the cerebral cortex). So by stimulating the cerebral cortex we’re sending impulses from the cortex to other connecting areas that impact emotions. This generally has a relaxing and balancing effect on the emotions by controlling which aspects of the mind dominate, in turn prompting our consciousness to rise from the primitive/instinctual level to the more evolved/elevated levels of the brain.

The Breath, Prana and Pranayama

Yoga practice teaches us to control prana, the vital (life) force, through pranayama. The breath is used in pranayama to help us to learn to control prana, but don’t make the mistake of confusing prana with the breath. Prana is the life energy that animates the lungs, but it is NOT the breath itself. Using pranayama (breath control) is the easiest method for regulating the flow of prana and once we are able to control prana through pranayama we are better able to control the movement of prana to other organs and areas throughout the body.

The breath being the mode of practice for pranayama, the focus is in on the three basic stages of respiration:

  1. Inhalation (pooraka)
  2. Retention (kumbhaka)
  3. Exhalation (rechaka)

However, according to ancient and traditional yogic texts, pranayama is retention, and inhalation and exhalation are secondary, being methods for affecting retention.

Kumbhaka (retention of the breath) has a deep physiological effect on the brain. It begins by providing additional opportunity for the brain cells to absorb oxygen, and eliminate more carbon dioxide, producing a calming effect on the mental/emotional body. When the breath is retained, the brain panics because the carbon dioxide levels temporarily increase and the increased carbon dioxide levels stimulate the brain’s capillaries to dilate. When this happens, more capillaries in the brain are opened up improving cerebral circulation, building up an immense amount of energy in the brain, subsequently forcing the creation of new neural pathways, plus the activation of dormant centers. The brain is now activated and awakened!

A good analogy is look at the breath like the oil in a car, prana as the gasoline (fuel), and the mind as the engine. By understanding the relationship of the breath, prana and the mind to one another we will be better prepared to navigate our life, progressing to a higher, more evolved state, and to repair it if it breaks down.

Although full control of the breath may take the student of yoga years to perfect, this perfection is not necessarily the highest form of pranayama. The highest form is to remain completely, consciously aware of the breath.

Of related interest, click on; Yoga Practice for Improved Lung Function

And… Stories the Breath Can Tell

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga Practice for Improved Lung Function

A recent study has shown yoga practice to be beneficial for patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), an incurable, often progressive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe normally. COPD can include Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema, or a combination of both.

The participants in this study showed improvement in lung function, reduced shortness of breath, and a decrease in inflammation after practicing yoga for 12 weeks; this according to the “GW Center for Integrative Medicine” and a press release from the “American College of Chest Physicians.”

Study presenter Prof. Randeep Guleria, M.D. said: “We found that yoga can be a simple, cost-effective method that can help improve quality of life in patients with COPD,”

For the study, 29 COPD patients practiced yoga twice a week for an hour. Their yoga routine included yoga asanas, pranayama, kriyas (cleansing techniques), and meditation.

COPD, affecting approximately 24 million Americans is most often caused by cigarette smoking, but controlling symptoms and slowing (or stopping) progression of the disease helps improve the quality of life for patients according to researchers.

Yoga practice is an excellent form of exercise for almost anyone with COPD. When done properly it is relatively low impact, and it helps to improve both emotional and physical health.

Yoga is described as a “mind-body practice,” by the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and although yoga’s roots are found in Eastern philosophy, it’s not necessary to hold any particular spiritual or religious beliefs to take part in classes, so it is quite possible to find classes that just focus on yoga as a way to stay fit, flexible, and relaxed.

There are many classes, including those offered for people with diagnosed health conditions, that do not focus primarily on the spiritual aspects of yoga practice. However, for anyone who feels they would benefit from the spiritual elements of yoga, that’s also okay. The main thing is to find a class and/or instructor that works best for your particular needs.

Yoga practiced as a secular exercise is made up of two essential parts. Physical postures, known as asanas, and breathing techniques, known as pranayama.

Yoga asanas are performed to help improve your balance, flexibility, range of motion and general fitness levels. They also work well to raise your energy levels, reduce stress and clear the mind from worry.

Breathing techniques (pranayama) are a vital part of yoga practice. They help you to control your breath and teach you how to use your lungs more efficiently and effectively. Pranayama can be performed while holding the asanas and/or separately as stand-alone Practice.

According to The University of Maryland Medical Center’s web-site, “Yoga improves fitness, lowers blood pressure, promotes relaxation and self-confidence, and reduces stress and anxiety. People who practice yoga tend to have good coordination, posture, flexibility, range of motion, concentration, sleep habits, and digestion. Yoga is a complementary therapy that has been used with conventional medicine to help treat a wide range of health problems.”

Specific Benefits of Yoga Practice for People With COPD

Yoga classes designed specifically for people with COPD generally offer modified forms of yoga, so there’s no need for concern that you’ll be expected to contort your body into complicated poses. They can be tailored to meet the health needs of people with COPD and should provide a gentle, easy and effective way to manage both overall physical health and emotional well-being.

Yoga asana practice can provide a variety of gentle stretching and bending exercises help to improve fitness and flexibility, improve the range of motion in the shoulders and open the chest, thus increasing overall lung capacity, while familiarizing yourself with different breathing techniques (pranayama) will give you the tools to confidently manage any attacks of Dyspnea (breathlessness). These learned techniques should be taught in a way that they’re  easy enough so that they can also be practiced at home.

Of related interest, click on: Stories the Breath Can Tell

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

How Well is Your Head and Heart Aligned?

One of our greatest strengths as humans lies in our unique ability to operate from either our head or our heart. Both our brain (with the ability to think) and our heart (with the ability to feel) are powerful organs that not only sustain life, but they are tools that can help us experience the world in a most profound way. New research has conclusively shown that we can “think” both with our brains and with our hearts and if (and when) we do that, we increase our ability to make better decisions. Aligning our heads and our hearts also greatly helps us to gain clarity, feel more flexible and resilient, plus it works to guide us toward a more balanced and peaceful life.

We experience this whenever we create coherence. Coherence is the state when our heart (along with its feelings/emotions) and our mind (along with its thoughts/logic) are in dynamic alignment and in cooperation with each other. Heart and mind coherence can be defined as the synchronization of our emotional, mental and physical systems, creating a high-energy, optimal state that has the ability to encourage, stimulate and produce positive outcomes whenever its combined force is concentrated.

This heart/mind alignment results in us feeling good, and when we feel good we generally do good. We fully engage life, with less stress and more energy. We have greater power to make better decisions, and all this comes from developing the awesome potential of our heads and hearts working in synchronicity.

Three tips on accomplishing this alignment.

  1. 1. Listen your heartbeat while breathing from your heart space. Begin by just slowing down and noticing the miracle that you are. Find a comfortable spot and sit quietly, taking slow, deep breaths and experience your own heartbeat. Be aware of its pulsing. Then try breathing from the heart center. Resist the temptation to force the breath, just breathe normally, but visualize each breath coming in and out of the heart center. This draws you from the head into the heart space and now the two can be engaged and aligned.
  2. 2. Always act with compassion. Compassion is a quality that manifests on a heart level and head level, it involved both thinking and feeling and when balanced it becomes a powerful force for good. You’ll notice it’s a deep feeling, precipitated by thought and understanding, it’s also an excellent way to create coherence. When you act compassionately, mentally visualize that emotion swelling out of your heart until your head and heart find their proper alignment.
  3. 3. Go beyond listening to just your heartbeat and try to hear what the heart has to say. It’s common to hear the inner voices coming from our head. They tend to be in the form of thoughts – analytical, critical and sometimes disparaging. Well, next time these inner voices arise, listen to what the heart has to say, likely these will be kind, compassionate, supportive words. Imagine your heart speaking directly to you and you may realize that in reality it’s sending us these signals continuously.

There are many ways of aligning your head and your heart to create the coherence mentioned above…Try this, next time you feel like you are too much “in-the-head” about something, pause, take a deep breath and merge those thoughts with the feelings arising from your heart center. Visualize these two aligning, creating a cooperative force designed to help ease your stress so that you can create a better thinking/feeling experience, subsequently enriching your life and all your activities.

Of related interest, click on: Meditation on the “Feeling” of Being

And: The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Is Ashtanga Yoga a Religion?

For those who have never practiced Ashtanga Yoga, you may be wondering about this practice since it was the basis of a recent (July 2013) trial about a school yoga program in Encinitas, CA. California Judge Joe Meyer ruled that a public school district can teach yoga, siding with administrators who argued the practice is a secular way to promote strength, flexibility and balance and rejecting pleas of parents who said the classes are inherently religious and violate the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state.

Is Ashtanga Yoga religious? Should it be adapted to a public school curriculum? How is Ashtanga different from any other kind of yoga? For the answers to these questions we need to take a comprehensive look at the history, theory, and physical practice of Ashtanga’s Primary Yoga Series.

Some misconceptions about Ashtanga Yoga that need to be cleared up…

Many people are intimated by Ashtanga Yoga’s reputation as a rigorous, traditional practice, but the fact is that the basics of the practice can be broken down and tailored making it accessible to most anyone despite their age. Most people assume that you have to be athletic, or at least really strong and flexible in order to practice Ashtanga Yoga, but if you have a good certified teacher who can adjust for each individual’s fitness level, they will benefit by starting with as little as five practice minutes a day.

Even though Ashtanga Yoga is traditional, coming from a spiritual lineage that traces its roots throughout all of India’s historic path, it is not considered dogmatic. Instead this lineage lives in the hearts of students and their teachers and can be adjusted as needed so that the use of yoga as an effective tool is accessible for nearly everyone.

What can be learned from the practice of Ashtanga Yoga?

The practical essence of the spiritual practice of Ashtanga Yoga is that through the use of postures (asana), breathing (pranayama), and prescribed focus points one can gain a direct experience of the inner Self. The asanas are simply tools that help students tap into the limitless nature of their inner being. Ashtanga Yoga practice has the power to open the mind, heal the body, and transform one’s view of the whole world. With a qualified instructor, beginners will find an introduction into the very basics of the world of yoga which will include moral and ethical guidelines, postures, breath-work, sense withdrawal, concentration, and meditation. Well established students will discover additional tools and techniques to help them go deeper into their practice.

Can Ashtanga Yoga be considered religious?

Ashtanga Yoga is inherently spiritual, but not religious, nor can it be considered a religion. As a philosophy yoga is theistic by its very nature; it adheres to the belief that some type of universal (or Divine) force that is larger than the individual “ego-self” is the the underlying truth of all existence. But yoga never claims that this force has to be represented by any particular deity or religion. In fact, the reason yoga is so transformational is because we are led through a series of scientific methods to directly experience the limitless nature of our innermost selves. Once realized, this higher “Self” can never be limited by (or to) any religion, because its very essence is spiritual. Ashtanga Yoga practice illuminates the human spirit in a way that embodies our inherent greatness and limitlessness in a way that cannot be defined by (or confined to) any dogma.

Of related interest, click on: Yoga as Science

*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.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 16: Types of Engrossments, cont.)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Types of Engrossments, cont.; Sutras 1.44-1.46)

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 15: Types of Engrossments, cont.)Yoga Sutra (1.44)etaya eva savichara nirvichara cha sukshma-vishaya vyakhyata. Etaya means by this or by these; Eva is also; savichara means investigation accompanied by subtle thoughts (sa = with, vichara = subtle thoughts); Nirvichara is investigation devoid of subtle thoughts (nir = without, vichara = subtle thoughts);  Chais and; Sukshma means subtle; Vishaya is objects; Vyakhyata means explained, described or defined.

Translated this means… In the same way that these adsorptions (engrossments) characterized by gross objects (savitarka samapattih), and by subtle objects (nirvichara samapattih), and is known as savichara and nirvichara samapattih (Samadhi).

In this sutra, Patanjali refers back to his discussion of savitarka and nirvitarka samadhi described in the two previous sutras (1.42 – 1.43) as he distinguishes the deeper types of concentration (savichara and nirvichara samadhi).  To understand the distinction between these, we must think about the differences between “gross objects” and “subtle objects” of concentration as defined through traditional yoga philosophy.

When practicing this sutra, each of the subtle objects is to be encountered, examined, understood, with an attitude of non-attachment; they are to be seen as “not-self.” As these obstacles are removed, the student moves closer to the goal, the realization of the true Self.

Yoga Sutra (1.45)sukshma vishayatvam cha alinga paryavasanam. Sukshma is subtle; Vishayatvam means object or having as objects; Cha is and; Alinga means without characteristics, undefined or unmanifest; Paryavasanam is extending up to or ending at.

Translated this becomes… Having such subtle objects extends all the way up to un-manifest prakriti.

Swami Satchidananda says of this sutra “the mind has the power to go to the very root of the un-manifested nature.”  Which begs the question – what is this “un-manifested nature?”  Christopher Isherwood describes it as “Prakriti…the elemental, undifferentiated stuff of matter; the energy by which all phenomena are projected,” and he says that “as the meditative mind turns inward, it probes through the gross outer coverings of things to their subtle essences…”

Yoga Sutra (1.46)tah eva sabijah samadhih. Tah is these, those or they; Eva means only; Sabijah means with seed, seeded; Samadhih (from Samadhi) deep absorption in meditation, ecstasy.

This sutra is translated to mean… These four previously mentioned varieties of absorption (engrossment) are the only types of concentrations (samadhi) which are objective, and have a seed for an object.

These represent the only four types of meditation on a gross object regardless of the school/system of meditation that is practiced. This sutra summarizes the previous four:

  1. 1. Savitarka samapattih with gross thoughts (sutra 1.42)
  2. 2. Nirvitarka samapattih without gross thoughts (sutra 1.43)
  3. 3. Savitarka samapattih with subtle thoughts (sutra 1.44)
  4. 4. Nirvitarka samapattih without subtle thoughts (sutra 1.45)

Patanjali insists that most people are unaware of things such as desire and aversion and how they constantly shape their subconscious minds, affecting every thought and action.  Those who are dedicated and have seriously committed to yoga practice may become aware of their inner stumbling blocks, thereby gaining an opportunity to check these forces before they arise into action, sustaining belief in them. With meditation, these underlying “seeds” may be constantly pulling us back from both the process and object of our focus and this may continue until we reach a level of contemplation that allows our most basic inner nature (the “Self”) to become fully realized. Until we reach that level, Patanjali says that we will only reach a temporary union with anything nearing truth. Our ego-based self-identity will constantly draw us back into the whirlwind thoughts springing up from our subconscious conditioning. To overcome this “sliding back,” persistence, practice and patience are necessary.

Part 15 may be viewed by clicking 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 15: Types of Engrossments)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Types of Engrossments; Sutras 1.42-1.46)

Yoga Sutra (1.42)tatra shabda artha jnana vikalpah sankirna savitarka samapattih. Tatra means there, among these; Shabda is sound, word or name; Artha means object, form or meaning; Jnana is knowledge or idea; Vikalpah means conceptualization (with options); Sankirna is mixed with or distorted; Savitarka Samapattih is a specific form of samapatti (Savitarka is sa = with + vitarka = gross thoughts; Samapattih is Samadhi, engrossment, absorption or state of enlightenment).

Translated this means…This specific type of such an absorption (samapattih) is one in which there is a mixture of three things, a word or name given to the object, the meaning or identity of that object, and the knowledge associated with that object; this absorption (engrossment or state of enlightenment) is known as savitarka samapattih (associated with gross objects). Swami Satchidananda interprets this sutra as: “The samadhi in which object, its name, and conceptual knowledge of it are mixed is called savitarka samadhi, the samadhi with examination.”

In his commentary Vacaspati Misra implies that at its root this sutra is about the confusion of unity with diversity. Because of our preconceptions, that which we believe is an understanding of unique phenomena is actually a combination of three diverse elements (name, form, and knowledge). We know that the world really is a complex series of objects and interactions, but if we want to more fully comprehend our true surroundings, we need to gain a better understanding of each of the individual components.

After the practitioner has the initial ability to allow the typically noisy, chattering conscious mind to become still, there comes an opportunity for them to discriminate between these three different aspects of how a mental object is constructed. These three are:

  1. 1. The given Name that represents the object.
  2. 2. The specific Object being observed.
  3. 3. The inherent Nature of that category of object.

After sufficient practice, the meditator gradually comes to realize that all of our attractions, aversions and fears, as well as our conceptions, perceptions and opinions are all mental constructs. This process of discrimination will continue to get ever more subtle until the final discernment between the subtlest aspect of mental process and pure consciousness (or Purusha) is achieved.

Yoga Sutra (1.43)smriti pari-shuddhau svarupa-shunya iva artha-matra nirbhasa nirvitarka. Smriti is memory or previous impression; Pari-shuddhau means purged or upon purification (pari = upon; shuddhau = purification); Svarupa-shunya is empty of its own nature (shunya = devoid, empty of; svarupa = its own nature) Iva is as if or as it were; Artha-matra means only the object (artha = object; matra = only); Nirbhasa is luminous, radiant or shining brightly; Nirvitarka means without a gross thought (nir = without; vitarka = gross thought.

Translated as… When the memory (or accumulations of previous impressions) is purified, the mind then appears to be devoid of its own nature and only the object on which it is contemplating appears to shine forth; this type of absorption (or engrossment) is known as nirvitarka samapattih. Swami Vivakananda translates this sutra thusly: “The Samadhi called without reasoning (comes) when the memory is purified, or devoid of qualities, expressing only the meaning (of the meditated object).”

Nirvitarka is the concentration on a gross object in which the extraneous gross level activities in the mind have subsided due to the memory having been purged or purified. This is the second of four types of absorption (engrossments) on a gross object (sutras 1.42 thru 1.46). Take note that with savitarka, there was not only meditation on the object, but also there were the other streams of gross thoughts in the mind (sutra 1.42), though these were not distracting because of vairagya (non-attachment). Here, in nirvitarka (sutra 1.43), these thought patterns have subsided.

Stay tuned “Types of Engrossments”, cont.; Sutras 1.44-1.46.

Part 14 may be viewed by clicking 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.