Dhyana

II.11, III.2, IV.6

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Over these past few months we’ve made our way from the third limb of Ashtanga yoga to now arrive at the seventh limb and most subtlest limb we’ve approached so far: dhyāna – meditation.

“Meditation is the harmonious blending of the emotions and intellect. It is the secret of all creative processes of men of genius and it is the fountain or source of works of literature and art” Astadala Yogamala. Vol. 2 p. 124
Dhyāna is a subjective state and not easily described and might be different for each person, but sūtras II.11 and III.2 define it similarly as the total awareness that comes out of continued single pointed attention (ekatānatā). The effects of dhyāna are described in sūtra IV.6 where the Seer moves closer to its purusa – effectually shedding the obstacles (kleśas) and the fluctuations (vrttis).
 
This shedding of the the obstacles and fluctuations dissolve the ego with the unbroken stream of awareness towards one’s own inner self.

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For our meeting on June 14, please review the following sūtras and their commentaries on dhyāna – as these are the sūtras that we will focus on:

  • II.11, III.2 and IV.6

For further information on dhyāna, feel free to explore the following sūtras in the samādhi pāda and their commentaries:

  • I.29, I.38 and I.39 – describe the internal aspects of dhyāna.

And as dhyāna is part of samyama:

  • III.4, III.7
References:

Astadala Yogamala: Vol. 2  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Allied Publishers Pvt. Limited, 2001. pp. 123 – 125.

Astadala Yogamala: Vol. 7.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Allied Publishers Pvt. Limited, 2008. pp. 186 – 202.

Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali: Philosphy, Religion, Culture, Ethos and Practice.  Prashant S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: New Age Books, 2016. pp. 750 – 778.

Core of the Yoga Sūtras: The Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  London: HarperThorsons, 2012. pp. 168 – 171.

Light on Astānga Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Alchemy Publishers, 2012. 174 – 179.

Light on Life. B.K.S. Iyengar.  New York: Rodale, 2005. pp. 182 – 186.

Light on Pranayama. B.K.S. Iyengar.  London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981. pp: 223 – 231.

Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. B.K.S. Iyengar. London: Thorsons, 1993.

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and commentary with Insights from the Traditional Commentators. Edwin P. Bryant. New York: North Point Press, 2009.

The Tree of Yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar. Boston: Shambhala, 2002. pp 138 – 148.

Yaugika Manas: Know and Realize the Yogic Mind.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  Mumbai: Yog, 2010. p. 102.

Dharana (con’t)

A single wave of concentration

One of the many things that set Mr. Iyengar apart was not only his ability to link his asana practice to the eight limbs and other philosophical concepts, but his ability to draw on vivid imagery further describe these concepts. In our last meeting, we discussed dhāranā and reviewed the related sutras. However, the conversation was driven by discussion of some of the passages from Tree of Yoga and Light on Life. Each of these use the image of a little waves to describe the citta vritti that eventually become a single wave of concentration.

We’re including just two passages here…

Dhāranā means attention or concentration.  It is a way of focusing attention on a particular path, region, spot or place within or outside the body. Dhāranā is control of the fluctuations of consciousness to focus it to a single point. In dhāranā one learns gradually to decrease the fluctuations of the mind so that one ultimately eliminates all waves or tides of consciousness and the knower and the known become one. When consciousness maintains this attention without altering or wavering in the intensity of awareness, then dhāranā becomes dhyāna or meditation.  Tree of Yoga. p 139

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True concentration is an unbroken thread of awareness.  Yoga is about the will, working with intelligence and the self-reflexive consciousness can free us from the inevitability of the wavering mind and the outwardly directed senses…

…The chattering mind is a lot of little, distracting waves. Concentration is one big wave. Bring many to one. Subsume the many in the one, then calm the one for meditation…[I]n an asana we send our attention, which is a wave, to our right knee, left knee, arms, right inner knee, left outer etc.  Gradually awareness spreads to the whole body.  At this moment our awareness is unified.  We have brought all the disparate elements under the control of one flow of intelligence.  This is concentration or one powerful thought wave.  A mind that can learn to concentrate in this way, to bring out unity in diversity, can now aspire toward serenity, which is the meditative state where even the big wave of concentration is brought to a state of tranquility 

…In this way, the practice of asana, performed with the involvement of every element of being, awakens, sharpens and cultures intelligence until it is integrated with senses, mind, memory and self…This is asana performed at a sattvic level, where luminosity infuses the whole pose…Here I am practicing asana but at a level where the quality is meditative.  The totality of being, from core to skin is experienced…conscious life is in every cell of the body. Light on Life. pp 180-182.

 

These are just two instances where the poetry of dhāranā comes through in Mr. Iyengar’s writings. Continue to explore the books listed on our reference page for more and feel free to share what you discover in the comments below!

Dharana

Yoga Sūtras: II.53, III.1, III.4, and III.7

In talking about pratyāhāra when we last met, we explored it from it’s perspective as a bridge from the bahiranga to the antaranga practices, moving from the external to the internal. The first of the internal practices that we come across is dhāranā – the act of concentration.

Sūtra III.1 directly describes dhāranā and asks the practitioner to fix the mind and the consciousness either within or outside the body. Simply, the fluctuations of the mind start to focus towards one point.

Pranāyāma, is one of the places (deśa) where the seed for dhāranā is planted (II.53). Dhāranā merges with the other antaranga practices to bring about full integration (III.4). These internal practices are those which cannot be taught but at the fruits of practice of the external practices. (III.7).

The further qualities of where dhāranā can be cultivated are also discussed in sūtras I.36 and I.37

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For our meeting on May 17, please review the following sūtras and their commentaries on dhāranā – as these are the sūtras that we will focus on:

  • II.53, III.1, III.4, III.7

For further information on  dhāranā, feel free to explore the following sūtras in the samdhi pada and their commentaries:

  • I.36, I.37 – describes the qualities of the deśa of dhāranā.

Resources:

Astadala Yogamala: Vol. 7.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Allied Publishers Pvt. Limited, 2008. pp 179 – 186.

Core of the Yoga Sūtras: The Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  London: HarperThorsons, 2012. pp 165 – 166.

Light on Astānga Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Alchemy Publishers, 2012. pp 169 – 174.

Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. B.K.S. Iyengar. London: Thorsons, 1993.

Pātañjala Yoga Sūtra Paricaya: An Introduction to Pātañjala Yoga Sūtra-s.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga. 2013. pp 46, 97 – 100.

The Tree of Yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar. Boston: Shambhala, 2002. pp 138 – 139.

Yaugika Manas: Know and Realize the Yogic Mind.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  Mumbai: Yog, 2010. pp 101 – 102

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and commentary with Insights from the Traditional Commentators. Edwin P. Bryant. New York: North Point Press, 2009.

Pratyahara

Yoga Sūtras: I.35, II.54 and II.55

After a brief jaunt through the vayus, we now return to our regularly scheduled exploration of the limbs of Ashtānga Yoga.

Remember the stability of the consciousness that is cultivated through pranāyāma as described in sūtra 1.34? That stability carries into the next limb of Ashtānga Yoga to pratyāhāra – withdrawal of the senses.

Pratyāhāra is first alluded to in sūtra I.35 and the goes onto being further defined and explored in sūtras II.54 and II.55.

It has already been mentioned that the practice of pranāyāma removes the clouds that obscure intelligence and allows it to shine forth.  Instead of searching for sense gratification, the senses turn inward. Pratyāhāra is the state where the scattered thoughts of the outgoing mind that motivate the sense organs are stilled. The practitioner moves from the more external practices yamas, niyamas, asana, pranāyāma (bahiranga sādhanā) to the internal practices, dhāranā, dhyāna, samādhi (antaranga sādhanā).  Pratyāhāra acts as a bridge between the external and internal practices.

The effects of pratyāhāra, described in sūtras III.48 and III.49 delve deeper into the potential depths that can be reached within pratyāhāra.

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For our meeting on April 12, please review the following sūtras and their commentaries on pratyāhāra – as these are the sūtras that we will focus on:

  • I.35, II.54, II.55

For further information on the effects of pratyāhāra, feel free to explore the following sūtras in the vibhūti pada and their commentaries:

  • III.48, III.49 – describes the deeper and resonating effects of pratyāhāra.

Resources:

Astadala Yogamala: Vol. 2.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Allied Publishers Pvt. Limited, 2001. 111 – 114.

Core of the Yoga Sūtras: The Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  London: HarperThorsons, 2012. 90-92, 164 – 166.

Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. B.K.S. Iyengar. London: Thorsons, 1993. 87-88, 168-171, 229-231.

Pātañjala Yoga Sūtra Paricaya: An Introduction to Pātañjala Yoga Sūtra-s.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, 2013.  45-46, 93-95, 130-131

Yaugika Manas: Know and Realize the Yogic Mind.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  Mumbai: Yog, 2010. 100 – 101.

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and commentary with Insights from the Traditional Commentators. Edwin P. Bryant. New York: North Point Press, 2009. 132-133, 297-300.

Vayus Recap and Overview

At its most basic understanding, pranayama is known as control of the breath. However, as we discussed in our last meeting, the breath in pranayama is a tool to begin to access and to understand the more subtle energies of the body – the vayus (vital energies).

The Sūtras approach the vayus primarily from the perspective of the siddis (supernatural powers) they can ultimately bestow on the practitioner – such as: levitation/walking on water, super hearing, transparency, etc. In turn, making the vayus a bit more esoteric and than they already are so we spent some time looking at the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the definitions of the five main vayus:

Vayu
The Pranic Body, with colors highlighting the locations of the various vayus.  Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Light on Hatha Yoga.  Swami Muktibodhananda.  p. 154.
  • Apana – Elimination, reproduction; urinary/excretory tract – outward current
  • Prana – Pranic absorption on a major scale in the thoracic region – inward current
  • Samana – Assimilation; stomach region; middle breath – time between inhalation and exhalation
  • Udana – further upward current; throat and facial region – up breath and extension of samana
  • Vyana – circulatory energy throughout the whole body – pervasive breath.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, provides a more user friendly/practical explanation to how pranayama relates to the vayus (and even deeper understanding of the body sheaths – kosha) for us mere morals.

Nazli assembled a great series of excerpts from the Swami Muktibodhanada translation and commentary.

Please check out the book to help deepen your understanding!

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Astadala Yogamala: Vol. 2.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Allied Publishers Pvt. Limited. 2001. pp 274 – 287.

Core of the Yoga Sūtras: The Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  London: HarperThorsons, 2012. pp. 160 – 163.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Light on Hatha Yoga.  Swami Muktibodhananda.  Bihir: Yoga Publications Trust, 2012. pp. 149 – 189.

Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. B.K.S. Iyengar. London: Thorsons, 1993. pp. 219 – 225.

Pātañjala Yoga Sūtra Paricaya: An Introduction to Pātañjala Yoga Sūtra-s.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga. 2013 (2011). pp. 122 – 126.

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and commentary with Insights from the Traditional Commentators. Edwin P. Bryant. New York: North Point Press, 2009. pp. 368 – 377.

Pranayama

Yoga Sūtras: II.49, II.50, II.51, II.52, II.53

Like with many of the sanskrit terms that we’re familiar with from our classes, prānāyāma is a compound word, Prānā – vital energy and yama – restraint. For all beings prānā is manifested and easily observed in the breath.

It [prānāyāma] permeates each individual as wall as the Universe at all levels. It acts as physical energy; as mental energy, where the mind gathers information; and as intellectual energy with a discrimative faculty, where information is examined and filtered. B.K.S. Iyengar LOYS 161.

Patañjali directly describes prānāyāma and its effects in sūtras II.49 – II.53.

Sūtra II.49 starts with the definition of prānāyāma as it relates from the breath, laying the basic foundation for the following sūtras.

Each successive sūtra delves deeper and deeper into the layers. Starting with the three basic components of prānāyāma in sūtra II.50 (inhalation, exhalation, and retention) and their qualities (place, duration and precision). With abhyāsa (practice) and vairāgya (detachment), sūtra II.51 tells us that pānāyāma can become “seedless” transcending the previously described tangible properties. But what happens then? Illusion is destroyed (II.52) and the mind is further steadied (II.53) bringing the practitioner closer to the Self.

This “seedless” prānāyāma confers special powers to the practitioners described in sūtras III.39 – III.43 and  link into the five vital (yet subtle) energies in the body – the prānā vayus.

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Iyengar Yoga Institute Maida Vale recently republished an interview between Senior teacher Lois Steinberg and Geeta Iyengar discussing how all of these come together and manifest in practice. Check it out here: http://iyi.org.uk/geeta-iyengar-pranayama/  and many thanks to the good folks at IYI for allowing us to share.

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For our meeting on February 15, please review the following sūtras and their commentaries:

  • II.49, II.50, II.51, II.52, II.53

For further reading and to begin to understand the deeper qualities and nature of these five sūtras, feel free to explore the following sūtras and their commentaries:

  • III.39, III.40, III.41, III.42, III.43 – describe qualities associated with “seedless” prānāyāma and the prānā vayus;
  • I.34 – first mention of prānāyāma in the sūtras and cultivation of further steadiness in the consciousness by regulation of the breath

Resources:
Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali: Philosophy, Religion, Culture, Ethos and Practice.  Prashant S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: New Age Books, 2016. pp. 528 – 609.

Core of the Yoga Sūtras: The Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  London: HarperThorsons, 2012. pp. 155 – 163.

Light on Astānga Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Alchemy Publishers, 2012. pp. 147 – 163.

Light on Pranayama. B.K.S. Iyengar.  London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981.

Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. B.K.S. Iyengar. London: Thorsons, 1993.

Pranayama: A Classical and Traditional Approach. Prashant Iyengar.  Pune: Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, 2014. pp. 7 – 31, 163 – 171.

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and commentary with Insights from the Traditional Commentators. Edwin P. Bryant. New York: North Point Press, 2009.

From Asana to Pranayama

When there is that connection between the mind and the body, it is possible to begin to understand the Self.

What a great first meeting to the new year earlier this month! There was a lively discussion of many aspects of the sūtras II.46, II.47, and II.48, with many sharing their personal reflections, understandings, and experiences.

With all that was covered, there wasn’t a chance to look into Sūtra I.33.
This particular sūtra is quite rich and reaches many aspects of the yoga philosophy.

While the maitrī (friendliness) and karunā (compassion) aspects of this sūtra are clearly related to the yamas and niyamas, they can also be applied towards asana. Maitrī and karunā are both qualities which should be present in the practitioner to cultivate the connection between the mind and the body. When there is that connection between the mind and the body, it is possible to begin to understand the Self.

The sūtra immediately following, I.34 is the earliest reference to pranayama in the Sūtras. It discusses how the stability of the consciousness (developed through the maitrī and karunā of asana) is further cultivated by the regulation of the breath.

This is why in the Iyengar tradition there is an emphasis of starting with asana and then adding in the pranayama.

Resources:
Core of the Yoga Sūtras: The Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  London: HarperThorsons, 2012. 156.

Light on Astānga Yoga.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Alchemy Publishers, 2012. 142 – 143.

Pātañjala Yoga Sūtra Paricaya: An Introduction to Pātañjala Yoga Sūtra-s.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Delhi: Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga. 2013 (2011). 44 – 45.

Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. B.K.S. Iyengar. London: Thorsons, 1993. 86-87.

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and commentary with Insights from the Traditional Commentators. Edwin P. Bryant. New York: North Point Press, 2009.128 – 135.

Yaugika Manas: Know and Realize the Yogic Mind.  B.K.S. Iyengar.  Mumbai: Yog, 2010. 97-98.