While many consider enlightenment to be the goal of yoga, it’s not! That is just a practice that helps us to get better at the REAL goal of yoga: excellent decision making. Learn about the yoga sutra and how it supports viveka (discernment) as the goal of yoga…so you can say an enthusiastic, “Yes!” to your life!
Over the many years I’ve been leading yoga teacher training programs, I am always surprised at how much debate there is as to what the real goal of yoga is. I think most people would probably answer something along the lines of enlightenment, but actually, that’s not the goal of yoga. So I thought I would give us a new goal to pursue in this podcast.
Many of us have probably, at some point, studied The Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutra is the most well-known text that talks about the philosophy of yoga. It was written 2000 years ago or so, by a teacher named Patanjali, and it’s often referred to as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. The Sutra is a very small book, there are only 185 or so short phrases written in Sanskrit. So, typically, if you purchase a Yoga Sutra, you’re purchasing a commentary. You’ll see the phrase in Sanskrit with its translation, as well as a bit of explanation as to what each of those phrases means. Funny enough, this means that all of those explanations are really personal interpretations, and so sometimes people have differing ideas as to what they mean.
Essentially through consistent yoga practice, we just get better at life. Yoga doesn’t make your life better. .
Now, largely within yoga, it’s been my experience that it is taught that the eight-limbed path, which we find in The Yoga Sutra, is a hierarchical path. Perhaps you’ve heard of it this way. So, for example, the eight limbs are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Yama and Niyama, The first two are the ways which we treat others, that’s Yama, and then the ways in which we treat ourselves, that’s the Niyama, and there are five of each of these. The next step is the one that we’re most familiar with, which is Asana. These are the postures of the practice, and then we have Pranayama, which is breath work. Pratyahara, Dharena, and Dhyana are all more deep forms of meditation. So, Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses. That’s literally just the ability to sit there and not be distracted by other stuff, so not be distracted by the phone ringing, or the text coming through, not be distracted by the smell of something baking in the kitchen, not be distracted by the thoughts or the itchiness that always seems to arise on your face every time you sit to meditate. I know, that happens to me, too. So Pratyahara is a practice of becoming less and less distracted by the outside world, so, technically, it’s a type of meditation.
Learn more in this week’s podcast.