“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured
and endure what cannot be cured.”
– B.K.S. Iyengar
The ultimate goal of yoga is the quieting of the mind. Although there is much focus on the asanas (postures) that improve flexibility and strength, the practice of yoga is really an inquiry into the human condition.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras provide a guide into this inquiry. The Yoga Sutra’s were written in Sanskrit thousands of years ago, and have been translated and analyzed numerous times. There are 196 sutras, or threads, that provide powerful and timeless teachings for seekers treading the spiritual path. The goal is to master the mind and achieve union or harmony of the body, mind and spirit.
Patanjali divided the sutras into four chapters or books (pada). They are Contemplation, Practice, Progressing and Liberation.
The two sutras that speak to me from the first book are:
1.2 Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah
The restraint of the modifications of the mind stuff is yoga.
This is the goal of yoga. If the restraining of the modifications is achieved, one has reached the goal of yoga. The natural state of the mind is peaceful, but it is the modifications, the mind chatter, that disturb the peace. It is based on the fact that the outside world is based on our own thoughts, beliefs and opinions. The entire world is our own projection. Once we can master the mind, we master everything.
1.3 Tada Drastuh Svarupe Vasthanam
Then the Seer (true self) abides in His own nature.
This is realizing that we are the true Seer, the Knower.
When the mind ceases to create thought forms or when the mind chatter is quiet, you can see your true Self.
In the second book, Patanjali presents the eight-limb path of yoga.
Eight-Limb Path of Yoga
This is the heart of Patanjali’s teachings. They are his suggestions for living a better life through yoga.
Yama is social behavior, how you treat others and the world around you. These are moral principles.
Niyama is inner discipline and responsibility, how we treat ourselves. These are sometimes called observances.
There are five niyamas:
Study of the sacred text (svadhyaya).
Devotion, surrender (ishvara-pranidhana).
Posture, physical poses. Patanjali says that the posture of yoga is steady and easy.
Prana is life force or energy that exists everywhere and flows through each of us through the breath. Pranayama is the control of breath.
Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses and turning inward.
Concentration or dharana involves teaching the mind to focus on one point or image.
Uninterrupted meditation without an object is called dhyana. Concentration (dharana) leads to the state of meditation. The goal of meditation is not unconsciousness or nothingness. It is heightened awareness and oneness with the universe.
The ultimate goal of the eightfold path to yoga is samadhi or absolute bliss.