Sage Patañjali would have constituted this work around the1st century AD. This writing represents one of the fundamental texts in the history of yoga. It serves as a codification for any practitioner wishing to understand the essence of yoga. There are 196 sutras written in such a way that they constitute a light to guide the spiritual seeker on the unexplored shores of Consciousness.
Yoga Sutras can be translated as "verses on Yoga". Except that the Sanskrit term sutra means "thread", the thread now united the pearls of yoga. The yoga to which Patanjali refers in his scriptures is recognized to be assimilated to raja yoga,also called astāńga yoga, eight-limb yoga.
The work is therefore made up of eight essential or technical stages, which make it possible to pacify the mind and gradually induce a more subtle perception of the world. These eight steps are as follows.
- YAMA – societal rules
- NIYAMA – personal discipline
- ASANA – postures
- PRANAYAMA – the control of Prana
- PRATYAHARA – the withdrawal of the senses
- DHARANA – concentration
- DHYANA – meditation
- SAMADHI – infinite contemplation
The first five stages refer to the external practices preparing the body and mind for the last three stages that represent the internal practices of yoga. One can only reach a stage once one has completed the one above. It can be said that the one who enters samadhi has transcended the material world and has become a yogi. Basically it's far from being won for everyone…
Yama and Niyama
Yama are the rules that allow us to regulate our social interactions to be at peace with our fellow human beings. There are five.
- satya – expression of truth in everything and for everything
- ahimsa – attitude of Non-violence in thought, words and deeds
- asteya – conduct of Probity
- brahmacharya – control over the Senses and Sensuality
- aparigraha – non-possessiveness on the Material
Niyama are the personal observances intended to harmonize emotions and inner feelings to progress on the path of yoga, also five in number.
- saucha – purity of the physical and mental body, actions and speech, external environment and social context
- santosha – contentment in every moment
- tapah – austerity, rigour in practice
- swadhyaya – study of the self and sacred scriptures
- ishwara pranidhana – abandonment to the Superior
Each of these rules makes it possible to reduce the dissonances between internal thoughts and external acts. This allows us to harmoniously lead our lives with this bilateral relationship between the head and the heart. As soon as they dephase each other, conflicts are created producing a disturbed mind and incoherent acts.
This dear Mister P. tries to explain to us that to attract the positive we must think and act positively. Otherwise, we will have to face dissonances between our mind and our actions. In other words, our outer world is only the mirror of our inner world, and what happens around us is only the consequence of our choices. Have you not already experienced a situation of this kind?
Patanjali defines asana as"a stable and comfortable posture". In reality only a few postures among the hundreds existing in Hatha Yoga are really important and beneficial for the physical balance.
In the yoga of Mister P. the purpose ofasana is to create harmony by swinging nerve impulses, the feeling of pain and pleasure, body temperature, blood pressure and all the fluid and chemical exchanges of our physical body.
I will surprise many but yoga is not about flexibility or strength! The major action lies far beyond the gaze and each posture has its own actionpotential, its own benefits and even precise contraindications. In addition you will have understood asana represents only a tiny part of yoga and we still have to find its deep meaning beyond physical appearances. I hope one day to be able to make you discover this meaning…
The term pranayama in Sanskrit is composed of two terms: prānā "vital force" and āyāma "expansion". The fourth member of Patanjali is certainly the most important stage of the eight. We don't have control over our body, it's a machine smart enough to operate autonomously.
However we have the ability to influence prana through our breathing. The breath is one of the only processes we can control. We can for example slow down our inspiration,or force on our exhalation or even stop any movement of the lungs, retention.
As we can tame our breath, we can also be prisoners of it. Have you never experienced a thriller film with a mind-blowing breath or during a situation so intense in emotions that your breath was cut off? A link exists between the mind and the body. Our emotions influencing our physical body via breathing and vice versa.
The fifth member appeals to the withdrawal of the senses. To establish optimal meditation, it is necessary to shift our attention from the outside to the inside. Our five senses are useful for interacting with our external world, but when it comes to bringing our consciousness inside they are no longer of any use. We have such a tendency to use our five senses that we enter into a struggle with ourselves even when it comes to detaching ourselves from them to live in the present moment.
Here Patanjali speaks of concentration of the mind,directed at a particular point. Once the previous step is established and all our senses silent, we still need to silence the buzz of our mind and all these noisy thoughts. This requires regular and continuous practice. "Thin I still forgot to buy bread","by the way did I answer all my emails","aie it hurts a little in the back to sit like that","good at what time this meditation". A restless mind will constantly seek to relive the past and fear the future, that is how it subsists. You will have understood our head never lacks subjects to be noticed!
One could translate dhyana by absorption, although it is etymologically a state of advanced meditation. This step appears when the practitioner is in a state of stable and continuous concentration. It is a altered state of consciousness that requires a total let go and a break with our dualist vision that would lead to the Union. Our mind keeps us in this vision of permanent judgment which prevents us from accessing our divine nature.
The eighth and last member of Patanjali yoga is reached when the practitioner experiences awakening. When there is no more external or internal disturbance. The mind being at rest to leave room alone to the UniversalConsciousness, an Abandonment in the Absolute – Brahman, the Union with the divine Self – atman.
Well, we still have work to do with friends! But then you may be wondering "what do we do once samadhi is reached?" Our teachers used to say, "Now that wisdom has been acquired, it's time to go on holiday with your family." And yes, there is nothing better as a challenge than to spend time with our loved ones…
For us yoga is not just about fitness. Too often we associate this word with a sport, wrongly! Behind this still mysterious word lies countless tools capable of unleashing our full potential. The sacred scriptures bear witness to an ancêstrale wisdom opening our lives to infinite possibilities. So on the way all together…