Tuesday, June 27, 2017

YOGA: poses are only 1/8th of the path

Patanjali (Wikipedia edit); Amber Larson, Ashley Wells, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
Finally, Fatso Griffin starts a yoga regimen...but does it while driving for Uber (Family Guy).
Yoga is an eightfold path that, like the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path, tries to formulate a path to liberation (moksha), but here it twists "liberation" to mean "rebirth with Brahma." This was later corrected or expanded to mean "merging with Brahman." Brahma is the God of the Brahmins, whereas Brahman is the ultimate reality, GOD, or Godhead (godhood). Sadly, the majority of Westerners think "Yoga" means postures, poses, and pretzel twists...and really cool pants. What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga trying to formulate a teaching as popular and effective as the Buddha's Path?
1. Yamas (rules)
Om is the universal sound
These are the ethical rules or moral imperatives. The five yamas listed by Patañjali in The Yoga Sūtras (2.30) are:
  1. Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): nonviolence, non-harming other living beings.
  2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood.
  3. Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing.
  4. Brahmacārya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity, or sexual restraint.
  5. Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice, non-possessiveness, non-grabbing, non-hoarding.
Patanjali, in Book 2, explains how and why each of the above self-restraints help in the personal growth of an individual. For example, in Verse II.35, Patanjali states that the virtue of nonviolence or non-injury to others (ahimsa) leads to the abandonment of enmity, a state that leads the yogi or yogini to the perfection of inner and outer amity with everyone, everything.

2. Niyama (obligations)
The second component of Patanjali's path, which includes virtuous habits, behaviors, and observances (the "dos"). Sadhana Pada Verse 32 lists the niyamas as:
  1. Śauca: purity, clearness of mind, speech, and body.
  2. Santoṣa: contentment, acceptance of others, acceptance of one's circumstances as they are in order to get past or change them, optimism for self.
  3. Tapas: persistence, perseverance, austerity.
  4. Svādhyāya: study of the Vedas, study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self's thoughts, speeches, and actions.
  5. Īśvarapraṇidhāna: contemplation of the Ishvara (GOD/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality).
As with the yamas, Patanjali explains how and why each of the above niyamas help in the personal growth of the individual. For example, in Verse II.42, Patanjali states that the virtue of contentment and acceptance of others as they are (santoṣa) leads to the state where inner sources of joy matter most, and the craving for external sources of pleasure ceases.

3. Āsana (postures)
Patanjali begins discussion of asana (आसन, posture) by defining it in Verse 46 of Book 2 as follows स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥:
  • Translation 1: an asana is what is steady and pleasant.
  • Translation 2: motionless and agreeable form (of staying) is asana (yoga posture).
    Yoga Sutras II.46
Asana is thus a posture that one can hold for a period of time, staying relaxed, steady, comfortable, and motionless. Patanjali does not list any specific asana, except the terse suggestion, a "posture one can hold with comfort and motionlessness."

Āraṇya translates Verse II.47 of The Yoga Sutras as, "asanas are perfected over time by relaxation of effort with meditation on the infinite"; this combination and practice stops the quivering of body. The posture that causes pain or restlessness is not a yogic posture. Other secondary texts studying Patanjali's sutra state that one requirement of correct posture is to keep breast, neck, and head erect (proper spinal posture).

Later yoga school scholars developed, described, and commented on numerous postures. Vyasa, for example, in his bhasya (commentary) on Patanjali's treatise suggests 12:
  1. Padmasana (lotus pose)
  2. Veerasana (heroic)
  3. Bhadrasana (decent)
  4. Swastikasana (the mystical sign)
  5. Dandasana (staff)
  6. Sopasrayasana (supported)
  7. Paryankasana (bedstead),
  8. Krauncha-nishadasana (seated heron)
  9. Hastanishadasana (seated elephant)
  10. Ushtranishadasana (seated camel)
  11. Samasansthanasana (evenly balanced)
  12. Sthirasukhasana (any motionless posture that is in accordance with one's pleasure).
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes the technique of 84 asanas, stating that four of these are most important:
  1. Padmasana (lotus)
  2. Bhadrasana (decent)
  3. Sinhasana (lion), and
  4. Siddhasana (accomplished).
The Gheranda Samhita discussed 32 asanas, while Svatmarama describes 15 asanas.
4. Prāṇāyāma (breath control)
Two Sanskrit words, prāṇa (प्राण breath) and āyāma (आयाम restraining, extending, stretching).

After a desired posture has been achieved, Verses II.49 through II.51 recommend the next limb of yoga, prāṇāyāma, which is the practice of consciously regulating breath (inhalation and exhalation).

This is done in several ways, inhaling and then suspending exhalation for a period, exhaling and then suspending inhalation for a period, slowing the inhalation and exhalation, consciously changing the time/length of breath (deep, short breathing).

5. Pratyāhāra (collectedness)
This is a combination of two Sanskrit words prati- (the prefix प्रति- "towards") and āhāra (आहार "bring near, fetch").

Pratyahara is fetching and bringing near one's awareness and one's thoughts to within. It is a process of withdrawing one's thoughts from external objects, things, person, situation. It is turning one's attention to one's true Self, one's inner world, experiencing and examining self.

It is a step of self extraction and abstraction. Pratyahara is not consciously closing one's eyes to the sensory world; it is consciously closing one's mind processes to the sensory world. Pratyahara empowers one to stop being controlled by the external world, fetch one's attention to seek self-knowledge, and experience the freedom innate in one's inner world.

Pratyahara marks the transition of yoga experience from first four limbs that perfect external forms to last three limbs that perfect inner state, from outside to inside, from outer sphere of body to inner sphere of spirit.

6. Dhāraṇā (concentration)
In Sanskrit (धारणा) this means concentration, introspective focus, and one-pointedness of mind. The root of word is dhṛ (धृ), which has a meaning of "to hold, maintain, keep."

Dharana as the sixth limb of yoga is holding one's mind onto a particular inner state, subject, or topic of one's mind. The mind (not sensory organ) is fixed on a mantra ["thought instrument"], or one's breath/navel/tip of tongue/any place, or an object one wants to observe, or a concept/idea in one's mind. Fixing the mind means one-pointed focus, without drifting of mind, and without discursively jumping from one topic to another.

7. Dhyāna (contemplation)
In Sanskrit (ध्यान) this literally means "contemplation, reflection" and "profound, abstract meditation."

Dhyana is contemplating, reflecting on whatever dharana has focused on. If in the sixth limb of yoga one focused on a personal deity, dhyana is its contemplation.

If the concentration was on one object, dhyana is non-judgmental, non-presumptuous observation of that object. If the focus were on a concept/idea, dhyana is contemplating that concept/idea in all its aspects, forms, and consequences. Dhyana is uninterrupted flow of awareness, train of thought, current of cognition.
Shiva dances with Shakti in the Himalayas (SS)
Dhyana is integrally related to dharana, one leads to other. Dharana is a state of mind, dhyana the process of mind. Dhyana is distinct from dharana in that the meditator becomes actively engaged with its focus.

Patanjali defines contemplation (dhyana) as the mind process, where the mind is fixed on something, and then there is "a course of uniform modification of knowledge."
Adi Shankara, in his commentary on The Yoga Sutras, distinguishes dhyana from dharana, by explaining dhyana as the yoga state when there is only the "stream of continuous thought about the object, uninterrupted by other thoughts of different kind for the same object."

Dharana, states Shankara, is focused on one object, but aware of its many aspects and ideas about the same object. Shankara gives the example of a yogin in a state of dharana on morning sun may be aware of its brilliance, color, and orbit; the yogin in a dhyana state contemplates the sun's orbit alone, for example, without being interrupted [distracted] by its color, brilliance, or other related ideas.

8. Samādhi (absorption)
In Sanskrit (समाधि) this literally means "putting together, joining, combining with, union, harmonious whole, [absorption]."

Samadhi is oneness with the subject of meditation. There is no distinction, during the eighth limb of yoga, between the actor of meditation, the act of meditation, and the subject of meditation.

Samadhi is that spiritual state when one's mind is so absorbed in whatever it is contemplating that the mind loses the sense of its own identity. The thinker, the thought process, and the thought fuse with the subject of thought. There is only oneness, samadhi. More

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