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WHAT IS YOGA? Part 3

Patanjali - Yoga Sutras (or Aphorisms)

Complete Yoga Breath
with Sound!

What is Yoga
series

“Yoga begins with
Discipline
Introspection
Control of Prana
Meditation...”
Yoga Sutras
by Patanjali

Hatha Yoga
Path to Health

“Practice alone is the
means to success.
The ida and pingala nadis
before entering into
the base of the nostrils
cross each other
and are known as
gangliated cords.”
The Hatha Yoga
Pradipika

by Yogi Maharishi
Svatmarama

Bhakti Yoga
Path of Love

“Subduing their
senses,
viewing all
conditions of life
with the same eye,
and working
for the welfare
of all beings,
assuredly
they come to Me.”
The Bhagavad Gita
translated by
Shri Purohit Swami

Sri Krishna
in The Gita
:
“Let him
who would climb
In meditation
To heights
of the highest
Union with Brahman
Take for his path
The Yoga of Action.”
—Quote from The Gita
in Vedanta for
Modern Man

Edited by Christopher Isherwood

“In the beginning of
one's spiritual search,
it is wise to compare
various spiritual paths
and teachers. A
spiritually thirsty
person should not
go on indefinitely
drinking from a
new well; rather he
should go to the
best well and drink
daily of its
living waters.”
—Yogananda

As with all teachings, Yoga is divided into many areas. The first book on the classic path to Yoga is in the 8 steps according to the father of Yoga, Maharishi Patanjali. (These 8 limbs, as he called them, are often compared to the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddha.)

Patanjali lived about 200 years before Christ. There is some question about the timing of the work, but somewhere between 1,700 and 2,200 years ago. He was also inspired by manuscripts that existed long before that in unwritten format, and even written. Everyone agrees that Patanjali systematically wrote the teachings of the ancient Yogis in his famous book, Yoga Sutras (196 short aphorisms).

According to The Yoga Sutras, ashtanga (= 8 limbs) is the system of Raja Yoga. The first two limbs (see below) come together to form your behavior. One must be ethical and moral to have a true Yoga lifestyle. These are loose translations of the Sanskrit words used. I am sure that there are no precise words for some of these in English.

  • Yama—Control, Effort
  • Niyama—Relaxation, rest
  • Asana—Control of posture. This is all about how conscious you are of your body and the way in which you carry it around with you. It includes your health, hygiene, diet and relaxation.
  • Pranayama—Control of breath
  • Pratyahara—Control of the senses. This is really about freedom of the senses and introspection.
  • Dharana—Concentration, focus on one object
  • Dyhana—Meditation, non-duality of mind
  • Samadhi—Contemplation, synthesis

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According to an article in the Yoga Journal, “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (c. 200), [is] the classical statement of ashtanga (eight-limbed) yoga and the central text of the hatha yoga tradition, although Patanjali proposes a dualistic model of reality dropped by most later yogis.”

In lectures by Aleister Crowley on The Yoga Sutras, he translates Patanjali into more interesting English:

“All phenomena of which we are aware take place in our own minds, and therefore, the only thing we have to look at is the mind: which is a more constant quantity over all the aspects of humanity than is generally supposed. The word Yoga means Union, from the same Sanskrit root as the Greek word Zeugma, the Latin word Jugum, and the English word yoke. (Yeung: to join)

“The real object of Asana is control of the muscular system, conscious and unconscious, so that no messages from the body can reach the mind. Asana is concerned with the static aspect of the body. Pranayama is really the control of the dynamic aspect of the body.

“We want to be steady and easy. The conditions to be desired in the posture are to be properly balanced. It is necessary, in order to hold a position, to pay attention to it. You are going to become conscious of your body in ways which you are not conscious if you are engaged in some absorbing mental pursuit, or even in some purely physical activity, such as running.

“There are innumerable tricks that you might try to match the active thought of controlling minute muscular movement against the passive thought of easing the irritation and disturbance: roll the tongue back towards the uvula, at the same time let the eyes converge towards an imaginary point in the center of your forehead. The advantage is simply that your attention is forced to maintain the awkward position. You become aware sooner than you otherwise would of any relaxation; and you thereby show the rest of the body that it is no use trying to disturb you by its irritability.

“The results and mastery of Asana are of use not only in the course of attainment of Yoga, but in the most ordinary affairs of life. At any time when fatigued, you have only to assume your Asana, and you are completely rested. It is as if the attainment of the mastery has worn down all those possibilities of physical pain which are inherent in that particular position. The teachings of physiology are not contradictory to this hypothesis. The conquest of Asana makes for endurance. If you keep in constant practice, you ought to find that about 10 minutes in the posture will rest you as much as a good night's sleep!

Quotes from Sites on Yoga Sutras

As of April 26, 2007, there were 976,000 Web sites found when I Googled Yoga Sutras. Here are some of the quotes I found (with the sites). Suggestion: Google it and discover the ones that show up for you.

“Yoga happens when there is stilling (in the sense of continual and vigilant watchfulness) of the movement of thought - without which there is no movement.” —http://www.dailyreadings.com/ys1-1.htm

“Toward the end of his comments on the Yoga Sutras, Shankara makes a valuable remark: 'There can be no lamplight unless the oil, wick and a flame are brought together.' ” —http://www.atmajyoti.org/med_foundations_of_yoga.asp

“Yama and Niyama: These terms are translated as effort and relaxation or exertion and rest. This stage consists in mastering fundamental ethical and psycho-hygienic rules of a spiritual seeker’s life. The first rule is called ahimsa—non-harming. It means trying not to injure, as far as possible, any living being in deeds, words, thoughts, or emotions. This also includes the principles of ethically correct nutrition and, which is no less important, getting rid of coarse emotions, which are the result of ill thoughts and often lead to rude words and actions.”
http://sathya-sai-baba.org/stages.html
(This is one of my favorite Yoga sites with Sathya Sai Baba. It would be a wise decision to read what he writes. His translations are so much better than anything else I have read thus far. Simplicity in words. I like that, a lot.

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