Patanjali: the legend

Legend has it that Patanjali compiled and codified the yoga sutras. The yoga sutras (sutra translating as thread) is considered the fundamental text for practising and living yoga and not just in the sense of asana but with regards to the full eight limbs. Those limbs being yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Remember the recent post about one of the limbs, the yamas? yoga adelaide

Patanjali compiled 196 sutras or concise aphorisms that are essentially an ethical blueprint for living a moral life and incorporating the science of yoga into your life. Although no one is sure of the exact time when Patanjali lived and wrote down his sutras, it is estimated this humble physician (who became one of the world’s greatest and most well known sages) roamed India somewhere between 200 BC and 200 AD and that his birthplace was a celestial abode called Ilavrita-Varsha and his mother being Sati and father, Angiras (one of the ten sons of Brahma).

The verses are interconnected and all related together, hence their namesake of sutra (thread). ‘The scripture is regarded as the most precise and scientific text ever written on yoga,’ Four Chapters on Freedom.

He was said to be able to communicate since birth and was believed to be an incarnation of the mythical endless serpent, Ananta. The tradition runs that upon his birth he made known things past, present and future, showing the intellect and penetration of a sage while yet an infant. He married Lolupa, whom he found in the hollow of a tree on the north of Sumeru, and is said to have lived for many, many years. It was also claimed that he once reduced a group of Bhotabhandra residents to ashes by fire from his mouth after being insulted by them.

It was believed he had a variety of talents that included being a physician, dancer, medical intuitive, philosopher and grammarian. There are many uncertainties and skepticism shrouding what Patanjali actually achieved. Given his suspected parentage, he was an accomplished dancer that created classical traditions of dance styles still performed today in India and he is regarded as the patron saint of dance but it is a given in the yogic community that he was the one to package up yoga in the sutras we follow in most yoga lineages today. Although he did not create yoga he was instrumental in bringing it to the world.

Did you know? Patanjali can be roughly translated as ‘falling from heaven’, ‘offering sacred knowledge coming from the heart’ or ‘falling into folded hands’. Read more here.

Some people even purport that Patanjali also wrote a treatise on Ayurvedic medicine with a focus on diagnosis of disease and drugs, the structure and function of the human body and its fitness and its aesthetics.

Often called the “father of yoga”, there is still much mystery surrounding Patanjali and some facts and information have been misinterpreted or diluted over the years, not too dissimilar to that of another legend of man we may be familiar with: Jesus and his teachings.

 

 

 

 

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Yamas – codes to live by

In Patanjjali’s (the father of yoga) yoga sutra there are eight limbs which comprise the eight yamas adelaidefolded pathway to enlightenment. These limbs are seen as steps or guides on the yogic pathway.

The first limb is Yamas, which are deemed the restraints or codes to live by in society. The yamas are complemented by the niyamas which are our personal codes of practise.

‘The Yamas comprise the “shall not” in our dealings with the external world and the niyamas comprise the “shall do” in our dealings with the inner world,’  Wikipedia.

The purpose of both the yamas and the niyamas is a redirecting of energies, helping us to reduce karma and always move towards clarity. They can all be practised at a psychological level as well as physical. They also provide a solid foundation to move through the rest of the yogic limbs.

The yamas are:

Ahimsa (non harming)

This can translate as harmlessness, removal of harmful intention and absence of enmity. This manifests as the cultivation and practise of non violent thoughts, words, actions or intentions towards the external world, one another, animals (and all living things) and especially towards the self.

‘…may all beings look at me with a friendly eye, may I do likewise, and may we look at each other with the eyes of a friend,’ Yajur Veda.

It is believed that practising ahimsa cultivates love, where the violence or harm is removed, it creates space for only love.

Ahimsa can take the form of practicing loving thoughts, not hurting animals, not judging others and even avoiding pushing yourself to the point of injury in your asana practise.

Satya (truthfulness)

Satya is the practise of incorporating the continuous truth and honesty at all levels of your life (even towards the self), which helps produce greater self reflection and develops integrity and overcome delusions. It translates as unchangeable or continuous truth.

It is the action of focussing on thoughts and speech that do good as opposed to do harm.

‘In most ways, the practice of satya is about restraint: about slowing down, filtering, carefully considering our words so that when we choose them, they are in harmony with the first yama, ahimsa. Patanjali and his major commentators state that no words can reflect truth unless they flow from the spirit of nonviolence,’ Yoga Journal.

The most wonderful gift you can give yourself is the truth.

Asteya (non stealing/non coveting)

Asteya focusses on taking something without permission, which isn’t just limited to physical goods. This can also extend into taking someone’s time, ideas or space and even hoarding unnecessary possessions.

Here are some great practical ways of practising asteya.

‘Asteya also includes the concept that you should try to be content with what comes to you by honest means,’ Yoga 108.

Bramacharya (chastity)

This is the practise of managing sexual energy and whilst it may not manifest in the form of abstinence, it can be the practise of mindful relations and adhering to ahimsa towards the self and others. Some yogis choose to embrace this yama as self imposed celibacy.

The belief around this is that celibacy is beneficial in reserving prana, which encourages or is required for enlightenment. Yogis also believe that bramacharya can lead to physical and mental wellness and clarity, good health and inner peace and clarity.

It can also be considered the control of the senses.

‘According to the Yoga Sutras, the end-result or fruit of Brahmacharya practised to perfection is unbounded energy and vitality.’ Wikipedia

 Aparigraha (non possessiveness)

This is the practise of greedlesness, non attachment to material and impermanent things which is said to create a pathway for a mindset of flowing abundance by letting go of the desire of things. With the removal of neediness and desire, comes contentment and peace.

Anything that can be lost, we shouldn’t be attached to but rather we should act from and value those things that can never truly be lost, such as love, ‘…the work you put into improving yourself, quieting your mind, learning how to behave in a moral and ethical manner, and learning how to act in accordance with your true inner self is something that can never be lost,’ Instant Good Karma.

‘The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God or himself to provide for his future,’ Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar, page 35.

Addtionally, there are other yamas which are not as well known or as common. They are Daya (compassion), Arjava (rectitude), Kshama (forebearance/patience), Dhriti (steadiness), Mita-Ahara (moderate eating).

Stay tuned for our post about Niyamas.

Read our What Does Yoga Actually Mean? post.

Get to Know Your yogafusion – Sue Czuchwicki

yogafusion

Meet the Director/Principal Teacher – Sue Czuchwicki  (Taurus)

 

When did your yoga journey start? And why did you start?

Sixteen years ago – to complement triathlon and cycling training and to get a good stretch, relaxation and grounding. My first class was a community class run by the local pharmacy in Bendigo, Victoria. The teacher (Sally Downes) was warm and friendly and had a special disposition about her that I was really drawn to and no other past coach/trainer had. The class itself was a nice mix of physical work and relaxation and I remember having the best night’s sleep after that first class. I knew then that there was something in this practise; something deep.

What led you to decide to become a yoga instructor?

Nothing in particular led me to it as it intuitively just felt right. Whilst initially the benefits of practicing yoga were of a physical nature I was amazed how soon yoga began to extend beyond the mat and into my daily life and relationships.

Yoga brought a calming focus to my life, a greater awareness when facing life’s challenges and I wanted to share what I was receiving with others. It was fairly soon after I had started yoga classes that I had already made enquiries to Sally. Interestingly, she said that out of all the students in her classes, she had a feeling I would be the one asking her about teacher training. Maybe it’s Karma?

What do you find most rewarding about being a yoga instructor? And most challenging?

Firstly I would like to make the distinction between yoga instructor and yoga ”teacher”. I believe that yoga is a science, a philosophy and a way of life. An instructor is someone who details physical postures whereas a “teacher” is someone who uses the postures to stimulate awareness and deeper understanding of yoga science. Having said that it doesn’t mean I’m not instructional in my teaching but for me “instructor” doesn’t involve inspiration or understanding. An instructor tells you what to do but a teacher helps you understand why you are doing it. Continue reading

Base Chakra

Chakra may now be a common term to you and you may even have an understanding of its meaning. base chakra

The chakras (meaning wheel or cycle) are culmination points for nadis (channels) of prana (energy or lifeforce). A useful analogy when considering chakras is to envision nadis as highways, filled with cars (prana) and the chakras are the intersections and roundabouts where these highways meet.

The chakras reside on the sushumna nadi, which is the central channel of energy that is aligned with the spinal column.

Let’s look closely at the base chakra.

Muladhara

base chakraMula (or moola) = base/root
Adhara = substratum/foundation/support

Known as the base or root chakra, this can be visualised as being located at the floor of the torso or base of the spine. It is the seat of our primal energy.

This is our foundation and if it is imbalanced the prana is not able to easily flow freely throughout the rest of the chakras and beyond. You may even be able to feel the subtle energy changes when this chakra is out of balance. Continue reading

What Does Yoga Actually Mean?

Yoga is an all encompassing term which is derived from the Sanskrit word, yuj, which translates in its most simplistic form to yoke. However, the translation isn’t that straight forward and it can mean to bind, union, attach and communion or a culmination of all these words.

With such multifaceted semantics, yoga can also be interpreted as connection, contact, method, application, addition, combination and performance.

On first glance, yoga may appear as a series of stretches and postures but it’s a traditional method of practise, principles and philosophy that aims to bind or yoke the individual together with a higher being or existence.

Another way of looking at the definition of yuj is ‘to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply’,Light on Yoga, page 19.

Yoga is both a state and a means to attaining it. Despite the differing styles and ways of practise, there is a common underpinning thread of belief that we, as people, are greater than just a body and mind. Continue reading