Atha Yogānuśāsanam I.1 Patañjali Yoga Sutra

Patanjali's work (पतञ्जलि) consists of 196 sutras that clearly describe the philosophy of Yoga. The core teachings of Patanjali are Ashtanga yoga or yoga of the eight limbs or stages through which the "yogini" and "yogi" (sanskrit words for a female and a male practitioners) can gradually attain union with the whole, the Samadhi.

Some verses of Patanjali Yoga Sutras:

-  "yogas chitta vrtti nirodhah," which means "yoga removes/calms the perturbations of the mind." "Chitta" is the mind, "vrittis" means thoughts or impulses, and "nirodah" means removal. This definition of yoga is contained in Samadhi Pada, the first pada of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Yoga verse I.2.;

- "sthira-sukham asanam," meaning the position (asana) should be stable and easy. "Sthira" means stable, "sukham" means happy or easy, and "asanam" are postures. One can find this definition of Yoga Sadhana Pada, the second pada of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in verse II.46;

- The list of the eight steps of Patanjali can be found in the second pada in verse II.29: yama, niyam, âsana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga in Sanskrit is devided into "Ashta + anga." "Ashta" means eight and "anga" means limbs, so it is known as the path of the eight limbs. Ashtanga yoga is based on the philosophy of Patanjali Yoga. The history of Ashtanga Yoga is date to approximately 5000 BCE and 300 CE, as described in the Vedic Philosophy and Tantras. Patanjali, great sage, composed this path into a Darshan (Philosophy) with its collection of Yoga Sutra. In which he has formulated Yoga as a path of eight limbs or steps.

The eight limbs:

  • - Yama ( 5 social rules): Ahimsa non-violence, satya-truthfulness, asteya-no stealing, brahmacarya - celibancy, aparigraha-not having the desire to possess.
  • - Niyama (the 5 personal rules): sauca-cleaning-santosa be satisfied, tapas-austerity svadhyaya-study of scriptures, ishvara-pranidhana-abandonment to God
  • - Asana (Posture)
  • - Pranayama (Breath Control)
  • - Pratyahara (Control of the Senses)
  • - Dharana (Concentration)
  • - Dhyana (Meditation, parting with the object of meditation)
  • - Samadhi (Meditation, union with everything, there is no separation)

Yoga Sutra subdivision into four chapters:

  1. Samadhi Pada - Samadhi means a state of bliss in which the meditator is absorbed into his consciousness. This chapter reveals what is samadhi and how to achieve it. Samadhi Pada contains the famous verse: Yoga calms the mental modifications.
  2. Sadhana Pada - Sadhana means discipline or practice. In this chapter Patanjali reveals two types of yoga: Karma Yoga (yoga of action) and Ashtanga Yoga (eight limbs of yoga). The most important one is the karma yoga in the Bhagavad Gita in which Krishna exhorts Arjuna to act selflessly, without yearning for the fruits of his actions. Ashtanga yoga consists of eight parts of the Raja Yoga.
  3. Vibhuti Pada - Vibhuti means manifestation of power. It is believed that a yoga practitioner with conscience can get superhuman powers. But, you should avoid lust after obtaining the powers and focus exclusively on the attainment of liberation.
  4. Kaivalya Pada - Kaivalya means moksha or liberation. This is the ultimate goal of yoga. Kaivalya Pada reveals its true nature.

Yama and Niyama

Yama comes from the root word "yam" meaning to store or rule. Yama means to calm some of the negative behaviors (the animal control / instinct of nature) that occur in all humans. The Yamas are:

  • Ahimsa (Non-violence)
  • Satya (Truth)
  • Asteya (Do not steal and do not cheat)
  • Brahmacharya (Continence, includes self-control and moderation in all)
  • Aparigraha (Do not covet, including no envy, jealousy or unhealthy competition)

The niyamas are the general actions that are necessary if we are to reach a state of health and balance within ourselves. The niyamas are:

  • Sauca (Purity)
  • Santosha (Contentment)
  • Ishawara-Pranidhàna (Leaving the Universe)
  • Tapas (Discipline)
  • Svadhyaya (Study of the Self).

The practice of Yama and Niyama requires patience and a lot of attention. The student will begin to see Yama and Niyama as rules with which to live by. As the student starts to make progress in the study and practice of yoga, he or she develops rules of behavior and techniques for practice, and begins to understand what those directives of Patanjali are really trying to tell us. Students look deeper into their motivations and subconscious conditioning and see what is really happening. Yama and Niyama, which on the surface only appear as heavy sets of old rules, are actually the key to the transformation in real life. That is why the great Patanjali placed Yama and Niyama first along the path of yoga. Ethics provides the solid base on which to build a life of health, wealth and harmony, and is the necessary foundation for greater spiritual progress.

Hymn to Patanjali

योगेन चित्तस्य पदेन वाचा मलं शरीरस्य च वैद्यकेन
योऽपाकरोत्तं प्रवरं मुनीनां पतञ्जलिं प्राञ्जलिरानतोस्मि ।
आबाहु पुरुषाकारं शङ्खचक्रासि धारणं सहस्रशिरसं श्वेतं प्रणमामि पतञ्जलिम् ।।

Yogena cittasya padena vacam malam sarirasya ca vaidyakena yopakarottam pravaram muninam patanjalim pranjaliranatosmi. ।
Abahu purusakaram sankhacakrasi dharanam sahasrasirasam svetam pranamami patanjalim. ॥

I bow to the noblest of sages Patanjali, who gave us yoga for serenity, Grammar for purity of language and Ayurveda for the perfection of the body.
I honor Patanjali, his upper part has a human form, whose arms hold a conch, a disc and is crowned by a thousand-headed cobra. Oh my humble incarnation of Adisesa (the lord of Serpents) greeting is addressed to you.

- Author Unknown -

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