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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
October 1st, 2014 by Oliver Frings
reading time: 3-4 minutes

A part of the spiritual path of every yogui is the ability to learn and gain knowledge. In yoga this is known as Jnana Yoga, the yoga of true knowledge. There are many books, both ancient and of newer eras, that can give us this spiritual background and insights of who we are and what the purpose of life is.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were complied approximately in 400 CE and consists of 196 Indian sutras (aphorisms). Another literary masterpiece worth mentioning is the Bhagavad Gita.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali teaches us about the 8 limbs of yoga that lead to self-realization and to union into the supreme absolute (Brahman). Patanjali’s first four limbs focus on gaining awareness over our body and refining our personalities, which prepares us for the last four limbs which focuses on the mind and it’s senses and the ability to reach a higher state of consciousness and the final stage of inner peace and bliss.

Yama (restraints) is the first limb, as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It deals with ethical standards and integrity and the most important lesson is somewhat similar to the Western world’s proverb: ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’. The five yamas are: ahimsa  (nonviolence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (nonstealing), brahmacharya (continence) and aparigraha (noncovetousness).

Niyama (observances) is the second limb, which deals with spirituality and self-discipline. The five niyamas are: saucha (cleanliness), samtosa (contentment), tapas (heat/spiritual austerities), svadhyaya (a study of one’s self and the sacred scripts) and isvara pranidhana (giving yourself to God)

Asana (pose), the third limb, is related to the physical practice. Asanas are the yogic postures, which help us develop discipline and concentration. The purpose of the asana practice is to prepare the physical body for long meditation sessions.

Pranayama (breath) is the fourth limb. It consists of different respiratory exercises to help recognize the connection between the mind, the breath and the emotions. It helps us to unify ourselves, calm our mind and find inner peace.

The fifth limb is Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). It means to withdraw or experience sensory transcendence. Practicing Pratyahara means to detach ourselves from our senses and take a step back to look at ourselves objectively. It is gaining mastery over external influences and controlling our senses.

Dharana (intense focus) is the sixth limb in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and it means concentration. In this step we are meant to concentrate and focus on one mental object. This concentration leads to the seventh limb, which is: Dhyana (state of meditation). Dhyana is a flow of concentration and a state where we are very aware but don’t have a focus. Meditation means ‘a deeper awareness of oneness which is inclusive of perception of body, mind, senses and surroundings, yet remaining unidentified with it’. It is a deep awareness with the ability to distance yourself.

The last limb is Samadhi (state of oneness). Patanjali describes Samadhi as being a state of ecstasy because the meditator reaches a connection to the Divine, Brahman, and a feeling of being connected to all things alive. It is a state of bliss and full peace than can only be experience through continual devotion.

If you want to have a deeper understanding about the 8 limbs and the yoga sutras, you can be spiritually enlightened by The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali in our online shop.

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