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This forum is an open study group for serious practitioners and Yoga teachers who are interested in sharing knowledge about the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Please feel free to open new threads concerning any question about or any aspect of The Yoga Sutras. Be prepared for different viewpoints and opinions.
April 27, 2015
An internationally renowned yoga teacher, Nischala Joy Devi is also the author of The Secret Power of Yoga, a book in which she uncovers the "heart and spirit" of the Yoga Sutras. Devi's translation of Patanjali's most famous sutra-Yogah Citta Vritti Nirodahah- is so sweet, tantric and heart-centered that it makes all previous translations of these Sanskrit words look as if written by male experts hell-bent on mind-control. Indeed, it looks to me that Patanjali himself was hell-bent on mind control. Let me explain.
Devi's warm, simple, and deeply personal translations are different from any I have read before. Ironically, they remind me of the liberal way Robert Bly-a very sweet but also a very manly man-translates Rumi, Kabir or Mirabai. There's a personal directness, liberty, and freshness in each line which other translations lack. She writes that the above sutra, in which Patanjali explains the meaning of yoga, should be interpreted as follows: Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart. Compare this to her male counterpart, prolific yoga expert Georg Feuerstein's translation: Yoga is the restrictions of the fluctuation of consciousness.
Devi's translation gives us a feeling of warmth, unity, and hope; that yoga is about opening ourselves into a state of being already known to our hearts. Feuerstein's gives us a sense that yoga is a discipline to chastise the mind into submission. And that's not Feuerstein's fault.
It's Patanjali's. Feuerstein's translation is indeed a lot closer to the literal meaning of Patanjali's words than Devi's. Citta means mind, or consciousness. Vritti means tendency or fluctuation. Nirodha means restriction or suspension. There is really nothing about the heart or about unity in Patanjali's original sutra. In the words of my guru, Anandamurti, who interprets this sutra much like Feuerstein, Patanjali meant that a yogi must suspend his or her "mental tendencies" (vrittis) in order to find peace, and thus to experience the goal of yoga.
In fact, Anandamurti reminds us that the idea of yoga means unity, that yoga is a devotional concept, that yoga is the path of the heart-and that this profound idea comes from Tantra, not from Patanjali. In Tantra it is said that yoga means the unity between the individual soul and the cosmic soul, the unity between your heart and the cosmic heart, the unity between you and the Beloved. The Sanskrit transliteration for that is: Samyoga yoga ityukto jivatma paramatmanah. In other words, Nischala Joy Devi's translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 1.2 reads a lot like the way yoga is explained in Tantra; that yoga is the path of the heart; that our consciousness abides in the heart; that yoga means union.
But for Patanjali yoga meant something else, something manly, something dreary, something uninspired. For him yoga meant the "suspension of our mental tendencies" or "the restrictions of the fluctuations of consciousness."
Here's another angle. The word Citta, which is integral to understanding this sutra, is often translated as "consciousness," but it really means "mind." Our vrittis, our desires, our wants, our endless mental tendencies, they reside in our mind, in our citta. And Patanjali wants us to control those vrittis in the citta, in the mind, in order to experience yoga. But in Tantra the way toward yoga is not through control but through the way of union.
In Tantra the path of yoga is the path of alchemical transmutation rather than through control. And the way of transmutation goes through the heart, not the mind, through consciousness, not the intellect. Resembling this heartfelt spirit of Tantra, Nischala Joy Devi writes: "When this sutra is referencing only the mind, the emphasis is on control, restraint, or some form of restriction. It encourages students to be harsh with consciousness."
Because of this harshness of language, of interpretation, of philosophy-for Patanjali was first and foremost a philosopher-the Yoga Sutras never became popular in India, writes Feuerstein. Why? Because the Indian people, as Gregory David Robert writes in his bestselling book Shantaram, are all about the heart. They live first and foremost in the heart. And so do women. And so do the Tantrics. And that is why I prefer the Tantric interpretation of yoga: that yoga is about uniting consciousness through the way of the heart, through the way of love for the Divine.
April 27, 2015
April 27, 2015
What Are The Yoga Sutras?
An Indian philosopher named Patanjali wrote a set of 195 phrases that are considered to be one of the six visions of reality in the Hindu school of philosophy. This set of visions of reality is considered to be the Yoga Sutras. In traditional times, the Yoga Sutras were passed down from generation to generation by the memory of the teacher to student. The Yoga Sutras are not any type of historical fact, however, it is a book built on the philosophies the Vedic school believed in. The official purpose of the Yoga Sutras is to give a perspective. In other words, the Yoga Sutras give people the ability to realize spiritual freedom.
The Yoga Sutras are broken up into four different sections. These sections, or chapter, are called pada. The first chapter is called Samadhi Pada and has 51 of the 195 different phrases. This is the chapter that an individual reaches a state of bliss. The second section is called Sadhana Pada and contains 55 of the phrases. This section illustrates eightfold yoga and action yoga to the reader. The third section is called Vibhuti Pada and like the second section has 55 phrases. This section offers direction on the more advanced states of yoga. The last chapter is called Kaivalya Pada and has 34 phrases. This section literally means emancipation. It teaches individuals must live in the here and now to be able to completely and spiritually be free.
The Yoga Sutras theoretically and philosophically give yoga a basis. These phrases truly let Indian traditions and thought shine through. It starts from the beginning of yoga and shows the link between thoughts and poses. It literally shows the link between thought to though and pose to pose. It is the basis of teaching yoga, showing how yoga became to be and what yoga is and how yoga is practiced.
If an individual is looking to learn yoga the traditional way, studying the Yoga Sutras is the way to go. This collection of 195 phrases truly shows what yoga is, how it is done, and why it is done that way.
Patanjali's Eight Limbs
Patanjali's eight limbs are the principles that must be upheld in order to reach Enlightenment. Each limb provides a value that, when used with the others, promotes a lifestyle of self-discipline and ever-improving character. These eight limbs are:
• Yama (Universal morals)
• Niyama (Personal observances)
• Asanas (Postures)
• Pranayama (Breath controls and exercises)
• Pratyahara (Control of one's senses)
• Dharana (Concentration and awareness)
• Dhyana (Meditation)
• Samadhi (Ultimate Union)
Yama involves morality and personal ethics toward others. Yama is divided into five principles. Ahimsa is the principle of non-violence and peace. Satya is honesty, while asteya focuses on abstaining from stealing. Brahmacharya is avoiding lust and aparigraha involves avoiding greed and possessiveness.
Niyama involves self-discipline and spiritual observance. Shauca is purity in how we eat, think and dress. Santosha is contentment through finding peace with what we have. Tapas is austerity or discipline of the body and mind. Svadhyaya is studying scared or profound texts that encourage self-awareness. Isvarapranidhana is devotion to that which you consider to be divine.
The third limb of Patanjali is that of body posture. Asana is used to prepare the body for meditation. The practice of keeping the body still allows for the calming of the mind. Practicing the different postures improves balance and flexibility.
Pranayama is control over breathing. The movements included in this practice are inhalation, retention and exhalation. The intake of breath is meant to be balanced with its release. It is this balance which soothes the nervous system.
Pratyahara takes place during meditation. It is the act of withdrawing from consciousness. By detaching from your senses, you direct your attention away from distractions and are thus able to analyze yourself from an objective point of view.
Dharana is the act of concentrating on one image or concept. Dharana is used to focus the mind and keep it from wandering into useless thoughts. The preceding steps are meant to prepare you for this concentration. Once the body is still and the senses are neglected, the mind can be made still as well.
Dhyana is perfect, uninterrupted meditation in a state of awareness without specific focus. In this state the mind produces little or even no thoughts at all. From a religious view, it involves focusing on a concept in order to understand its true essence.
Samadhi is the ultimate goal of yoga as it is a state of absolute bliss. It is characterized by unification with the universe.
The eight limbs of Patanjali create a pathway leading to physical, mental and spiritual conditioning. The eight limbs work in conjunction with one another with the first five steps building the spiritual foundation through the body. They prepare you for the last three steps that condition the mind.
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