Monday, September 22, 2014

Dharana (Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga)

Image Courtesy of Yoga Philosophy Page

Dharana - 6th Limb

The 6th limb of patanjali yogsutra is dharana or concentration , the previous limbs are mentioned in the previous posts 

Dharana (concentration) is the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place, and is the sixth of the eight limbs . concentration and meditation have minute difference The repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus is called absorption in meditation (dhyana), and is the seventh of the eight steps . The repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus is called absorption in meditation (dhyana), and is the seventh of the eight limbs , there is minute difference bw concentration and meditation , The repeated concentration on the one object of concentration is meditation. Typically, there is a moment of concentration, when there are no distractions. Then, a moment later a distraction comes. Then, attention lets go of the distraction, and returns to the object of concentration. However, when that distraction does not happen, the continued concentration on the one object is called meditation. meditation is a process which comes from within , you can do concentration but you cannot do meditation , meditation comes naturally after deep practice of concentration .
Dharana is the initial step of deep concentrative meditation, where the object being focused upon is held in the mind without consciousness wavering from it. The difference between Dharaṇa, Dhyana, and Samadhi (the three together constituting Samyama) is that in the former, the object of meditation, the meditator, and the act of meditation itself remain separate. That is, the meditator or the meditator's meta-awareness is conscious of meditating (that is, is conscious of the act of meditation) on an object, and of his or her own self, which is concentrating on the object. In the subsequent stage of Dhyāna, as the meditator becomes more advanced, consciousness of the act of meditation disappears, and only the consciousness of being/existing and the object of concentration exist (in the mind). In the final stage of Samādhi, the ego-mind also dissolves, and the meditator becomes one with the object. 
Dharana is the fixing of the mind on something external or internal. The mind can be fixed externally on the picture of Lord Krishna or Lord shiva or on any other object or point. Internally it can be fixed on any Chakra or any part of the body or on any abstract idea. Having controlled the Prana through Pranayama and the Indriyas through Pratyahara, you should try to fix the mind on something. In Dharana you will have only one Vritti or wave in the mind-lake. The mind assumes the form of only one object. All other operations of the mind are suspended or stopped. Different objects of Dharana and their effects are given in the subsequent lessons. According to the Hatha Yogic school, a Yogi who can suspend his breath by Kumbhaka for 20 minutes can have a very good Dharana. He will have tranquillity of mind. Pranayama steadies the mind, removes the Vikshepa and increases the power of concentration. Fixing the mind on something is Dharana or concentration of mind. Dharana can be done only if you are free from the distractions of mind. 

Pratyahara (Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga)


Image Courtesy of Yoga Philosophy Page
Image Courtesy of Yoga Philosophy Page

Pratyahara - 5th Limb

The 5th limb of yoga is pratyahara or sense withdrawal , we have discussed the 4 limbs of yogsutras that is yama, niyama, asana, pranayama in the previous posts , now we here are discussing abt pratyahara , pratyahara itself is termed as Yoga, as it is the most important limb in Yoga Sadhana. - Swami Shivananda

pratyahara is a process to go beyond the 5 senses and the mind ,Pratyahara is related to all the limbs of yoga. All of the other limbs — from asana to samadhi contain aspects of pratyahara. For example, in the sitting poses, which are the most important aspect of asana, both the sensory and motor organs are controlled. Pranayama contains an element of pratyahara as we draw our attention inward through the breath. Yama and niyama contain various principles and practices, like non-violence and contentment, that help us control the senses. In other words, pratyahara provides the foundation for the higher practices of yoga and is the basis for meditation. It follows pranayama (or control of prana) and, by linking prana with the mind, takes it out of the sphere of the body.

When the mental organs of senses and actions (indriyas) cease to be engaged with the corresponding objects in their mental realm, and assimilate or turn back into the mind-field from which they arose, this is called pratyahara, and is the fifth step.
(sva vishaya asamprayoge chittasya svarupe anukarah iva indriyanam pratyaharah) 

1) Control of the Senses (Indriya-pratyahara) - yoni mudra is one of the most important pratyahara techniques for closing the senses. It involves using the fingers to block the sensory openings in the head — the eyes, ears, nostrils, and mouth — and allowing the attention and energy to move within. It is done for short periods of time when our prana is energized, such as immediately after practicing pranayama. (Naturally we should avoid closing the mouth and nose to the point at which we starve ourselves of oxygen.) , Another method of sense withdrawal is to keep our sense organs open but withdraw our attention from them. In this way we cease taking in impressions without actually closing off our sense organs. The most common method, shambhavi mudra, consists of sitting with the eyes open while directing the attention within, a technique used in several Buddhist systems of meditation as well. This redirection of the senses inward can be done with the other senses as well, particularly with the sense of hearing. It helps us control our mind even when the senses are functioning, as they are during the normal course of the day. Focusing on Uniform Impressions
Another way to cleanse the mind and control the senses is to put our attention on a source of uniform impressions, such as gazing at the ocean or the blue sky. Just as the digestive system gets short-circuited by irregular eating habits and contrary food qualities, our ability to digest impressions can be deranged by jarring or excessive impressions. And just as improving our digestion may require going on a mono-diet, like the ayurvedic use of rice and mung beans (kicharee), so our mental digestion may require a diet of natural but homogeneous impressions. This technique is often helpful after a period of fasting from impressions.
Creating Positive Impressions -
Another means of controlling the senses is to create positive, natural impressions. There are a number of ways to do this: meditating upon aspects of nature such as trees, flowers, or rocks, as well as visiting temples or other places of pilgrimage which are repositories of positive impressions and thoughts. Positive impressions can also be created by using incense, flowers, ghee lamps, altars, statues, and other artifacts of devotional worship.

The big step


Portsmouth, England, United Kingdom. (Photographed by Me)

Been quiet for awfully long time. My apologies for that. It has been a whole lot of a roller coaster ride prepping for this trip hence I could not concentrate on any writing mean time. I am finally here after more than a decade of dreaming about this. Finally furthering my masters degree in a foreign country. 

There were a couple of things that i always told myself that i should strike off before i enter my 30s. As the years passed by, i managed to get a couple of things done, but just one was not quite getting there. That was my aim to further my masters abroad. At a point in life, i thought i should just give it up and maybe just get a certification or something, or even a part time degree locally. But the thought itself did not give me the satisfaction. I was almost aimless as to what i want in life and how i would go about it.

It was when yoga came into place and i boarded for the most thrilling roller coaster ride i could ever had been. 

From not knowing where i stand and which path should i take, i went through a series of events that slowly began to hit me with what i always wanted in life and where i should be heading too. Like Master always said, it is the inner desire, the desire of the inner self that matters the most. Guess i was really lost, as it took me 2 years to be where i am today. 

I would tell how this whole thought of abroad studies suddenly popped out from inside the box despite all the risk and issues that i thought would be a hindrance, it just fell into place, but that is entirely another chapter, we shall save that for another day.

Nevertheless, i am here today, somewhere i thought i would never be, something i thought was never possible, that one aim that was left to fulfil before my 30s, it is all happening and it will all fall beautifully into place.

Everything you want in life, every pain you face in life, has a reason and the power to make it happen lies in you. You just have got to listen to yourself really carefully, and want what you want a little bit stronger than ever.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pranayama (Patananjali's 8 limbs of Yoga)


Pranayama - 4th Limb

The fourth of the eight rungs of Yoga is Pranayama, which is regulating the breath so as to make it slow and subtle , leading to the experience of the steady flow of energy (prana), which is beyond or underneath exhalation, inhalation, and the transitions between them

Posture is the prerequisite: To successfully practice and attain the full benefits of breath control and pranayama, it is necessary that it be built on the solid foundation of a steady and comfortable sitting posture . Pranayama is preparation for concentration: Through these practices and processes of pranayama the mind acquires or develops the fitness, qualification, or capability for concentration (dharana), which is the sixth limb

Once that perfected posture has been achieved, the slowing or braking of the force behind, and of unregulated movement of inhalation and exhalation is called breath control and expansion of prana (pranayama), which leads to the absence of the awareness of both, and is the fourth of the eight rungs.
(tasmin sati shvasa prashvsayoh gati vichchhedah pranayamah)

That pranayama has three aspects of external or outward flow (exhalation), internal or inward flow (inhalation), and the third, which is the absence of both during the transition between them, and is known as fixedness, retention, or suspension. These are regulated by place, time, and number, with breath becoming slow and subtle.
(bahya abhyantara stambha vrittih desha kala sankhyabhih paridrishtah dirgha sukshmah)

Three aspects of breath and prana are trained when doing any of the specific breathing practices:

1)Exhalation: Training the exhalation is removing the jerkiness, allowing the flow to be slow and deep, as well as diaphragmatic.

2)Inhalation: Training the exhalation also means eliminating jerkiness, breathing slowly, and using the diaphragm.

3)Transition: Between exhalation and inhalation, and between inhalation and exhalation there is a transition, which is experienced as suspension, retention, or cessation, etc. The training of the transition is to make it very smooth, as if there were no pause at all. Between exhalation and inhalation there is a transition when one is neither exhaling nor inhaling. Between inhalation and exhalation there is also a transition when one is neither inhaling nor exhaling.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Asana (Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga)


Asana - 3rd Limb

Yoga has been defined as the mastery of the thought patterns of mind field , so that Self-realization can be experienced To be able to do the meditation practices that allow this, it is essential that the posture be Steady, and Comfortable . In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali suggests that the only requirement for practicing asanas is that it be "steady and comfortable"

It is very important to understand that asanas are not exercises. Yogis have always understood that the physical body has a whole memory structure. Everything – from how this cosmos evolved from nothingness up to this point – is just written into this body. So when we do asanas, we are opening up that memory and trying to restructure this life towards an ultimate possibility. It is a very subtle and scientific process – and it can become an explosive experience.

A group of 84 classic yoga asanas taught by Lord Shiva is mentioned in several classic texts on yoga. Some of these asanas are considered highly important in the yogic canon: texts that do mention the 84 frequently single out the first four as necessary or vital to attain yogic perfection.The Hatha Yoga Pradipika specifies that of these 84, the first four are important, namely the siddhasana, padmasana, bhadrasana and simhasana

The Gheranda Samhita (late 17th century CE) asserts that Shiva taught 8,400,000 asanas, out of which 84 are preeminent, and "32 are useful in the world of mortals. These 32 are: siddhasana, padmasana, bhadrasana, muktasana, vajrasana, svastikasana, simhasana, gomukhasana, virasana, dhanurasana, mritasana, guptasana, matsyasana, matsyendrasana, gorakshana, paschimottanasana, utkatasana, sankatasana, mayurasana, kukkutasana, kurmasana, uttanakurmakasana, uttanamandukasana, vrikshasana, mandukasana, garudasana, vrishasana, shalabhasana, makarasana, ushtrasana, bhujangasana, and yogasana

The means of perfecting the posture is that of relaxing or loosening of effort, and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite.(prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam)

From the attainment of that perfected posture, there arises an unassailable, unimpeded freedom from suffering due to the pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold, good and bad, or pain and pleasure).(tatah dvandva anabhighata)


Niyamas (Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga)


Niyama - 2nd Limb

The niyamas also consist of five limbs, namely shaucha, internal and external purification; santosha, contentment; tapas, austerity, swadhyaya, self-study and Ishwara pranidhana, surrender to divinity.

1) Shaucha: Shaucha is purity, both internal and external. External purity generates internal purity. For example, a bath early in the morning helps one to get into the meditative mood quickly. With the practice of shaucha one gradually gives up attachment to the body and it becomes easier to maintain brahmacharya.

Removal of lust, anger, greed, jealousy, etc. constitutes internal purity. Internal purity is more important than external purity. It makes the mind one-pointed, bestows serenity, cheerfulness, poise and happiness. It instils love, patience and magnanimity. Therefore develop internal purity through vigilant effort.

2) Santosha: Santosha or contentment cuts at the root of all desires. It bestows peace, one-pointedness of mind, serenity and satisfaction. It brings success in the practice of yamas. Contentment does not mean satisfaction, but willingness to accept things as they are and to make the best of them.

Divine light will descend in a contented mind alone. A contented person is satisfied with his lot. He is happy in whatever condition he is placed, he does not crave for things he does not have. Contentment is a mystic stream of joy that cools the three fires of samsara and joins with the ocean of immortal bliss.

The mind is always restless on account of greed. Greed is a kind of internal fire that consumes one slowly. Contentment is a powerful antidote for the poison of greed. It is said that there are four sentinels that guard the domain of moksha: shanti or peace, santosha or contentment, satsanga or company of truth and vichara or enquiry. It you can approach any of these sentinels you can get hold of the other three.

3) Tapas: Tapas is one of the three methods of dynamic yogic practice. Tapas means austerity or even practice of penance. A yogi of tapas is brilliant like a blazing fire. Tapas also means restraint of the senses and meditation. It leads to control of the mind. Austerities like occasional fasting and observance of silence increase the power of endurance. Standing on one leg, raising one hand up for a long time is also tapas, but this is tamasic tapas of an ignorant person. The unintelligent tapasvi is always irritable, hot-tempered and proud. So practise intelligent tapas. it includes chanting of powerful mantras like om and om namah shivaya etc Mental tapas is more powerful than physical tapas. He who bears heat and cold does physical tapas. He increases his power of endurance, but he may not be able to bear insult. He will be easily upset by a harsh or unkind word for he has disciplined only the physical body. To keep a balanced mind in all conditions of life, to bear insult, injury and persecutions, to be ever serene, contented and peaceful, to be cheerful in adverse conditions, to have fortitude in meeting danger, to have presence of mind and forbearance, are forms of mental tapas.

4) Swadhyaya: Swadhyaya or self-study is not just study of scriptures and books written by the realized ones, but also enquiry into the nature of the self. Swadhyaya is asking the question, “Who am I?”Swadhyaya is indirect satsang. When you cannot get the direct company of the realized and the wise, swadhyaya clears doubts and strengthens the flickering faith. It fills the mind with sattwa, inspires and elevates the mind, helps in concentration and meditation, cuts new positive grooves in the mind and makes the mind run in these grooves.

5) Ishwara pranidhana: Surrender to God is Ishwara pranidhana. This is the practice where the devotee consecrates everything to the higher force or divine, . He no longer has a will of his own. He says, “I am thine. All is thine. Thy will be done. I am an instrument in your hands.” Self-surrender is regarding every work as that of the Supreme Lord and renouncing all claims to its fruits. In surrendering his will to the Divine the devotee’s will becomes one with the cosmic will. He becomes one with the Lord. There is no loss in surrendering one’s will to God. Self-surrender makes the devotee feel the reality of divine grace and the Lord’s readiness to bestow help on him at all times. The divine influence streams into his being and moulds it to make it a fit medium for divine realization and divine instrumentality.

Next Limb - Asana >>


Yama (Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga)


Yama - 1st Limb

Yama being the first limb of yoga, the five yamas are the foundation of spiritual life on which the super-structure of samadhi is built. Following the yamas means sticking to ideals and principles. It is about development of positive traits that will transform the human nature into a divine nature and annihilate cravings and negative qualities. When the yamas are truly practised, the heart is filled with cosmic love, goodness and light.

There is a deliberate order in the five yamas.

1) Ahimsa (non-violence) comes first because one must remove one’s brutal nature first. One must become non-violent and develop cosmic love. Only then does one become fit for the practice of yoga. Then comes satya or truthfulness. The whole phenomenon of maya or illusion is asat or unreal and the aspirant should be aware of this fact. He should ever remember the truth or Brahman. Next comes asteya or non-stealing. As one must develop moral consciousness, one must know right from wrong, righteousness from unrighteousness, and one must know that all is one. Brahmacharya or continence, which is the fourth yama, is a divine attribute. The aspirant is now becoming superhuman through its practice. The fifth is aparigraha, non-covetousness. The yogic student is now free from cravings, unnecessary wants, the desire to possess and enjoy, and his heart has expanded manifold.

Ahimsa: Ahimsa is abstention from injuring any living creature. On the spiritual path, the first step is to eliminate the beastly nature. The predominant trait in beasts is cruelty; therefore, the wise sages prescribed ahimsa as the first yama.

Ahimsa is not merely non-killing. It is perfect harmlessness and positive love. It is to abstain from the slightest thought of harm to any living creature. The practitioner must abandon even unkind looks. There is no excuse or exception to the above rule. Harsh words to beggars, servants or inferiors is himsa (cruelty). To fail to relieve pain or trouble in another is negative himsa. To approve of another’s harsh actions is also against ahimsa. So practise ahimsa in its purest form.

2) Satya: Truthfulness or satya comes next in the order of yamas. Thought must agree with word and word with action. This is truthfulness. To think of one thing, say another and do another is nothing but crookedness. By telling lies you pollute your conscience and infect your subconscious mind.
The Self is truth. It can be realized only by speaking truth and observing truth in thought, word and deed. There are thirteen forms of truth: truthfulness, equal vision, self-control, absence of envious emulation, forgiveness, modesty, endurance, absence of jealousy, charity, thoughtfulness, disinterested philanthropy, self-possession, and unceasing and compassionate harmlessness. These virtues are attainable only by the unselfish.

Truth means the strength to abide by positive principles. Speak the truth, but let it not be unpleasant and speak not any pleasing falsehood – this is eternal religion. It is said that if you speak the truth for twelve years, you will acquire vak siddhi, whatever you say will come to pass. There will be great power in your speech, you will be able to influence thousands. If you are established in truth, all other virtues will cling to you.

3)Asteya: Asteya is non-stealing. This is another form of self-restraint. Why does a person steal? He wants something. When he cannot get it by legitimate means, he steals it. Desire, thirst or trishna is the root cause of stealing.

You remove a thing secretly without the knowledge of the owner and you do not want others to know of this act. This is stealing. Taking blotting paper, pins, paper, pencil, etc. from the office is stealing. Hoarding too much money, eating too much, adding to your cravings are all forms of stealing. A yogic student must be free from all these forms of theft. Even a sensitive mind becomes blunt by continuous stealing. Even a little dirt, a little theft affects the mind of a yogic student seriously. He will have to be very careful. Then alone will he have success in yoga.

4)Brahmacharya: The fourth yama is the practice of continence. When controlled, the part of human energy which is expressed in sexual union becomes transmuted into a special spiritual energy called ojas shakti and is stored up in the brain. All great spiritual giants of the world have practised celibacy and that is the reason why they were able to electrify the whole world through the power of their ojas. A yogi with an abundance of this energy keeps his audience spellbound. There is a peculiar charm in his smile and power in the words emanating from his heart. He produces a very profound impression in the minds of all.

What is wanted is restraint and not suppression of sexual desire. In restraint no sexual thought will arise in the mind. There is perfect sublimation of sexual energy. But in suppression the aspirant is not safe. When favourable opportunities occur, the repressed desire manifests with redoubled force and there is danger of a miserable downfall.

What is wanted is deep inner life. Open yourself to higher spiritual consciousness. Feel the divine presence and divine guidance in your life. Become like a child. Speak to Him freely. Do not hide your thoughts. Pray for light, purity, strength, peace and knowledge. You will be established in brahmacharya.

5)Aparigraha: Aparigraha is the opposite of parigrahaParigraha is covetousness or greed. Aparigraha is a mental state in which the sensual craving is dead. Parigraha leads to anxiety to preserve, fear of loss, hatred, anger, untruthfulness, stealing, etc. Aparigraha puts an end to all these and bestows peace and contentment. It removes at one stroke fear, attachment, disappointment, anxiety, jealousy, anger, lust and depression.

Aparigraha is indeed an aid to the practice of ahimsasatya and asteya. When the craving is not satisfied you become angry, you hate the person who stands in your way of attaining things. You harm him in different ways, speak untruth and begin to steal things. Aparigraha removes all these. It is the foundation of all yogas, just as dhyana or meditation is the meeting point of all yogas.

Next Limb - Niyamas >>