On the magic of Practice and the Yoga Sutras.

By Emilia Arenas

I remember myself from a very young age having a deep interest in spiritual matters. When I was a teenager I joined a group of people who would gather to pray together. It was a beautiful experience and soon I saw people develop the magical power of talking in ancient languages during this absorption as they prayed. I wanted so bad to have that power or being able to talk to Jesus himself or with Virgin Mary. It never happened to me though.

Later on I joined groups of meditation where people would see lights and colorful spaces that would give them so much peace and they would find answers for their conflicts and for the existential questions. I never saw lights either. Somehow trying to feel special I started to feel worthless and fell deep on my addiction to alcohol. 

Lucky enough I found these support groups where I learned how to stop drinking and observe myself to heal what was broken in my heart. 

It did work, and with it my search for my the answers to my own questions took a different path. I found books that would give me so much hope and would help me reconcile myself with the world I was surrounded by. 

Now after almost 20 years of practicing Yoga I have had the fortune to study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali with different teachers who have given me different perspectives and approaches. The beauty that lies on this Yoga explained by Patanjali is that nothing happens without being experienced. In other words he defines yoga as the action of stilling the fluctuations of the mind. The yoga Path is a path that needs to be taken, it just doesn’t happen to you. The yogi who is established in the practice ( Abhyasa ) and dispassion ( Vayragia) strives constantly to remove any Rajas ( the quality of movement) and Tamas ( the quality of Inertia) and replace them for Sattvas ( the quality of purity).

The beauty of this system, to me,  is the fact that the knowledge is acquired empirically. Patanjali indeed gives us a formula, and it is the yogi who actually puts it to work.  With the practice we re enforce the devotion, which might have been not so strong at first. As we see changes happening to us as the result of the practice we begin to refine the way we move around this world and inside of us. Devotion then,  is an important part of the path since with devotion discrimination comes and it helps to cultivate sattvas and a sense of understanding of why we are really undertaking the path of yoga. 

The yoga sutras of Patanjali shows us how to tame the mind and control all the passage of thoughts, until  eventually the yogi is able to still it completely which is the goal of yoga. Then he, the yogi, is able to realize the Absolute Truth, and Pusrusa ( pure consciousness) finally sees himself and is able to shine in its own whole light.  

The first chapter of the yoga sutras, called Samadhi Pada, guides the aspirant through the path of meditation with the purpose of stilling the mind and reaching the state of samadhi- meditative absorption.

The second chapter, called Sadhana Pada, is said to be directed to aspirants of Yoga whose mind is harder to control. For them Patanjali gives a more practical method, the method of Ashtanga yoga or the eight limbs. 

Yamas, Niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, daharana, Dhiana, and samadhi. Ethics, observances, posture, breath control, the restraining of the senses, concentration, meditation and meditative absorption. They constitute the eight limbs on which the yogi focuses to reach that state where the Absolute Truth is revealed to him. It is said that the yamas are “the great vote” and are the foundation for the other limbs. In fact, the practice of the other limbs are done with the purpose  of strengthening the practice of the yamas. These are Ahimsa or non-violence, satya or truthfulness, asteya or non-stealing, brahmacharya or celibacy, aparigraha or restraining from the desire to possess.  

Through the the work of the eight limbs, the yogi is able to be at peace with himself and with the world around him. His every moment becomes more sattvic and his mind not only works for his own understanding but all beings around him start to experience a purifying environment only for the fact of being in the presence of the yogi. 

And again, the magic doesn’t happen overnight and hard work is required for the yogi to find the light that resides within himself and beyond his body and his mind. No magic words, no colorful lights, no talking to angels, or maybe all of the above, but none of that is what matters. What matters in the constant observation of the yogi, and the work he does day by day on removing rajas and tamas out of his being and cultivating his sattvas until eventually even sattvas will be removed to let the Absolute truth shine it brightest light of all.

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