Theme of the month September ~ The path to enlightenment via Patanjali’s yoga sutras
Restraint, Observance, Seat, Breath Control, Sense Withdrawal, Concentration, Mediation and Ecstasy are the eight limbs of Yoga.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras II.29
I remember being on retreat with Sharon Gannon and David Life (the couple who developed Jivamukti yoga and opened the iconic New York studio in the 80s) back in 2010 in a girl guide style campsite in Lennox Heads, Australia. David was teaching a kick ass Jivamukti two hour workshop on inversions, he was vibrant and lively, cracking jokes and telling stories. Sharon floated around the room assisting and when she came to adjust you, she would lock eyes with you and smile. She had an energy like an elf from The Hobbit and her lock-in gaze made you feel safe and special. All the girls in my dorm fell in love with her that weekend.
As an aside they also fell in love with the crew of handsome firemen who had to come to our dorm after our candle gazing meditation set off the fire alarms.
After the session, Sharon and David held sating, they sat and answered any and all questions fired at them by us students. Questions like ‘should I kill a mosquito if it’s biting me even though I want to practice Ahimsa’ and ‘where did the two of you meet?’ And then someone asked ‘how does it feel to be a guru? To be enlightened’
David laughed and Sharon smiled her elfin smile sweetly and said ‘you are all your own Guru, I am a Guru but I’m not your guru’ and he said ‘and we are all already enlightened, you’ve just got to realise it’
Over that weekend they talked about Patanjali’s 8 limbs as a path to self realisation, to reaching the understanding that we are already enlightened and we are all our own gurus.
The 8 limbs of Patanjali are one of the oldest and richest pieces of yoga philosophy. They show us one way in which to navigate life and ultimately find enlightenment (disclaimer – I’m not there yet).
The 8 limbs begin with the outward and physical practices of the yamas and niyamas (which are kind like common sense guides on how to be a good person – be kind, don’t steal, be truthful, devote your life to more than selfish desires and more) asana and pranayama (the physical practice and breathing techniques which you all pretty much would do in every yoga class).
These physical components of the 8 limbs and in particular the yamas and niyamas, offer us ways to help live a content life beyond the mat if we are willing to look into them, practice them and particularly look at the ones that trigger us…those give us a chance to hold a mirror up to our own lives and see where change can happen. If you are interested in learning more about the yamas and niyamas come along to class this month and feel free to ask a teacher or drop me a line for some reading recommendations.
The 8 limbs then shift from the physical to the spiritual. First comes the practice of of pratyahara, where we draw the senses inward to bring attention to the inner world instead of expending energy exclusively on the outer world.
Pratyahara provides a bridge from the outer practices of yama, niyama, asana and pranayama to the inner practices of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (enlightenment).
These more inner practices are tough and require practice and commitment. There are many ways to meditation and I’m a firm believer that one size does not fit all, this month in class you may be introduced to different meditation techniques and you will probably find one that resonates with you more than another.
With practice, these practices become our glue and brain comfort in times of stress and strain and help us move through life with a little more ease. I said it wasn’t easy to do this right? I’ve been practicing yoga for over 20 years now and I still struggle and fall off the 8 limb path but one of my favourite teachings of Patanjali – tapas – means commitment, to keep going, to hop back on when you fall off the path and to give it everything you’ve got
See you on the mat soon for some Patanjali moments