PATANJALI YOGA SUTRAS


These Sutras are just as relevant today as when they were first written down 5,000 years ago.

They are eternal teachings direct from source, Patanjali gathered together this knowledge in the form of 196 sutras.

Yoga is so much more than movement, it is about unifying the individual with the Universal. It is a voyage of Self discovery,

which in turn enriches and harmonises daily living. Patanjali is a step by step guide for Self realisation.



In the New Year 2018, at the Patanjali Centre for Classical Yoga in Battle, East Sussex.

I will be sharing my knowledge of sutras with those who wish to work with them in more detail.

Bringing them to life and see how they can be incorporated into daily living. It is experiential, we explore together.

 

In the six sessions the core teachings of Patanjali will be worked with.

Starting with “Atha yoganusasanam”.  “Now begins the systematic teachings of Yoga (Union)”.

 

Dates are Saturdays 10 – 12.30 pm

January 13/27th; February 10/24th; March 10/24th  

 

Total Cost £60 (concession available)

Contact on vanessaegraham@aol.com or phone 01273 495554



statue-for-Website.jpg

Directions to ashram:

www.patanjali-centre.org.uk




Patanjali’s relevance in the 21st century


In today’s world science is the gospel of the multitude which claims to demolish the idea of God. It details what is presented in our physical world but leaves unexplained the subtle realm. As a human incarnation we inhabit three realms - physical, subtle and causal. Those that come to Yoga are blessed to be able to explore and to come to understand both the subtle and causal realms of our existence.


We have the Patanjali Yoga Sutras which have been tried and tested since they were composed thousand years ago. They are the science of the subtle realm and lay down clear steps for building one’s understanding from the gross world, through the subtle and into the causal. Each sutra is a step which has to be incorporated into one’s being for them to be effective. It is no use treating them lightly when reciting, for they are sacred words and ultimately do what they say.  All words are resonances, resonating in your bhavana (your space of being); for them to work they need correct pronunciation and place of articulation (asya).


When you start to listen to resonance you immediately move away from the physical into the subtle realm. The Patanjali Yoga Sutras are the science of the subtle and should be respected as such. They are the means of ascertaining the Real from the Unreal and take you on the journey of Self discovery. Each step is an aide to this journey, to move you onwards whilst at the same time nourishing and sustaining you on that journey towards the Self.


We are divine beings, yet we can remain ignorant of this fact (avidya – one of the klesas). Ignorance is often described as ‘the cloud of unknowing’, which obscures our vision of the Truth. I also like the image of dust on a mirror, we have to clear the dust off the mirror in order to get a clear reflection. Dust on this journey mainly comes in the form of mental movements (vrttis) in the subtle field of the mind. That is why Patanjali starts with acknowledgement of this C.l.v2 “yogas chitta vrtti nirodha”.  Yoga is a movement away from the surface disturbances of the mind (vrtti) into the deep stillness within (ni-rodha). That which never changes, that which never dies, that which is never affected by the surface waves of the mind – that which is your eternal true essence.


Patanjali has made sure we do not run before we can walk, he has outlined the eightfold Ashtanga Path, which starts with the yama (external observations) then niyamas (internal observations). These need to be put in place for one to be able to absorb the teachings. Next comes asana, where one is seated within. C.2.46 “sthira sukham asanam” – asana is a steady comfortable posture. The body needs to be stilled first before the breath and mind can be stilled.  Yoga can just be taken on a physical level of movement, working towards a healthy and flexible body. This has many benefits but it misses out the point in the context of the Sutras, asanas are practised so that the body can be stilled, in order that it can sit in an upright position to meditate (sitting on a chair is encompassed in this). Stilling the body is a very necessary stage, for if it is not brought to non movement it will disturb the meditative awareness. We can only discover we are not our body by stilling it and coming away from it. That same applies to the mind. Pranayama is used to give the mind something to focus on as well as slowing the breath down, as breath and mind are correlated.


Our mind is attracted by the senses which habitually turn outward. Our whole world seems a playground for the senses in which to sport but Patanjali teaches us otherwise with Pratyahara. The senses are turned inwards and brought to stillness where from this point we can operate our inner vision and hearing. It is not a deadening of the senses but an enlivening of them in pursuit of our inner essence.


Once we have embraced these first five stages which deal with the physical realm then we are ready to move into the subtle - dharana, which is a preparation for meditation. I refer to it as a soft focus rather than concentration which implies strain and effort. This journey is to your comfortable capacity whilst at the same time giving respect to the journey you are on.


An excellent place for a soft focus is where the bridge of the nose meets the upper lip as you can feel the movement of the breath there which carries the pranic force, entering and leaving the body. It is tangible, leaving no doubt and is imminent to awareness. The body needs to be in a comfortable upright position for the prana to flow in the susumna in the spine and through the chakras centres within it.


In deep sleep at night the breath breathes the body unheeded. The breath breathes us from the moment we are born to the moment we die (whilst we remain deluded that it is us doing the breathing). Allowing the breath to breathe the body is natural and if we do not interfere with it, will take us back to our true nature.  It is the Self breathing our body for us.


Recall the image of the chariot and the charioteer. Self rides in the chariot of the body, buddhi our intellect is our charioteer holding the reins of the mind which are leashed to the five senses. This Self is separate from the body and the mind, although it does operate through them.


Going back to the beginning of the Sutras C.1v3 the ‘drashtuh’ is introduced and this is the witnessing Self – the Seer. It is that which witnesses your body and mind yet is beyond both. At the very beginning Patanjali is highlighting the witnessing awareness, as that will be your companion on the journey inwards.

The importance of the separation will be seen when it comes to mental vrttis, thoughts that enter your mental field. When people come to meditation they are looking for the off button to their multitude of thoughts. Be it memories, night/day dreams, reminisces, plans, recounting events, emotions – the list goes on. What has to be taken on board is that they are not real, they might seem real at the time (as with worry or fear) but they are just waves on the surface on your deep lake of inner awareness. They have to be ignored if you wish to dive deep. I question the practice of mindfulness for the last thing you want to give mental modifications is recognition that they are real; if you do not give them your attention they will lessen.


As one travels on this journey, a clearer understanding of these vrttis takes place; identifying habitual patterns of detrimental thinking which disturb your peace and equanimity of mind. Patanjali looks at these in detail in order to understand their impact and work towards their elimination. Subtle sabotaging thoughts can cause havoc but by understanding their cause they can be simply dropped as they are not real.  Instead stay in the moment, with no past or future, for each moment to present itself as it comes with an ease of being.


Hence the scene for meditation is set - having a comfortable upright body, the focal point of the breath breathing the body at the bottom of the nostrils; we have the witnessing Self observing the process in a living breathing body in the moment. Opening out the listening with the desire to hear we open out to the space. This is your field of awareness ‘citta’. The ‘citta’ can be seen like the empty cinema screen; dharana leads to dhyana, a deepening of your awareness without any doing and you rest in this. Mental vrttis may still try to enter but you ignore them, do not give them your attention, which remains at your chosen point of focus (ekagrata). Ultimately dhyana leads to Samadhi which is the last of the eightfold process.


The whole process is a deepening of your understanding of the Self whilst at the same time identifying the obstacles that obscure that vision and remove them. It is a moving away from the gross physical body, working with the breath, stilling the senses and mind at the subtle level. Patanjali is there for guidance in short succinct sutra format ideal for sounding internally and allowing their resonances to do their magic.


Patanjali is just as valuable today as when it was first written. For those wishing to see the relevance and how these teachings can be incorporated in everyday living, Vanessa will be facilitating workshops at the ashram in the New Year. In the six sessions the core teachings of  Patanjali will be explored.

Starting with “Atha yoganusasanam”.  “Now begins the systematic teachings of Yoga (Union)”.  This initial block will introduce the fundamentals which are experiential, therefore practice of them in between sessions is required, to be able to monitor progress and overcome obstacles.Please contact Vanessa for further details.