Shining Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

by Jasmine Astra-Elle Grace

Do you hear teachers talking about the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in class and wonder what they are rambling about? Well, over the next few months, I have been asked to share with you all some of the key concepts found in this important philosophical yogic book.  I welcome you to join in on the journey!  Some even say that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali text is as important as the yoga mat itself…I will leave that for you to decide.

Invariably, “success” in yoga is through practice (sadhana). This idea of practice and experience for yourself is not only for asanas on the yoga mat; but, for all 8 limbs of yoga outlined in the philosophical text of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. While we may be able to memorize the words and intellectually understand the concepts, it is not until we have internalized the teachings and stayed with them for a period of time that we can truly be anchored in our own experience of the teachings.  Anchored in a knowing that exist in the silence and space between the words. Exploration of the sutras is essentially a method of self-inquiry.

If you are new to yoga or the philosophy of yoga here is the basic overview of the 8 limbs of yoga.

1. Yama -- the five restraints

Ahimsa -- Non-violence, non-harming, compassion for self and others.

Satya – Truthfulness in thought, word, and action.
Brahmacharya -- Control of the senses and energy conservation.

Asteya -- Non-stealing

Aparigraha – Non-grasping, non-attachment, non-hoarding.

2. Niyama -- the five observances

Saucha -- Purity, cleanliness of one’s body, surroundings and mind.

Santosha -- Contentment

Tapas -- Austerity

Swadhyaya -- Self-study, study of scriptures.

Ishwara Pranidhana -- Surrender to the fullness of self, surrender to God.

3. Asana -- Steady posture or seat

4. Pranayama -- Control of prana or life force

5. Pratyahara -- Withdrawal of the senses or to turn awareness inwards.

6. Dharana -- Concentration

7. Dhyana -- Meditation

8. Samadhi -- Total absorption, bliss, to hold the realization of unity.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the 8 limbs of yoga are very familiar to our Yoga on High Teacher Training Institute teacher trainees and graduates. In our 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training program, every graduating student has to choose a single sutra to contemplate over a month. The student journals about it daily for that month and has a first hand record of how the sutra shows up for them in their life. Their chosen sutra becomes a self-inquiry and a direct experience of living yoga.

In honor of the theme of the month, love, I was asked to share a blog on the first, and perhaps, most important Yama, Ahimsa. I have spent the last month refreshing my understanding of the concept, contemplating it, observing what rises within, looking at my level of harmony in relationships with all living beings, and doing simple meditations on love (which I will share with you) to raise my personal energetic vibrations. I have to admit I had a blindfold on and thought I was a “good” yogi living Ahimsa the majority of the time. However, as soon I brought my attention to contemplating Ahimsa it kindly showed me I have much work to do.

I look forward to sharing this most personal experience – the humanness, the self-inquiry, the practices, and the insights!

Shanti,
Jasmine Astra-Elle Grace

If you are interested in living the sutras with Jasmine Grace she recommends the following texts:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali -- Sri Swami Satchinanda

Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali -- B.K.S Iyengar

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali -- Edwin F. Bryant

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Radical Vulnerability

by Jill Nielsen-Farrell

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.
-- Muriel Rukeyser

Recently, my 14-year old son and I were talking about a challenge he was facing. During the conversation it was apparent that he clearly prides himself on his ability to not “whine or complain.”

As he was talking, a part of me thought, “This is good, right? Who wants to raise a whiner and a complainer? Not me! I’m happy I’m raising a kid who is strong and un-whiny!”

Almost immediately, however, I realized, “Oh my. I can’t help him unless he’s totally honest with me…and, more importantly, he can’t help himself either.” Read More…

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Above All, Bearing Witness

by Virginia Macali

There was an edge of anticipation for the second 5-day Urban Zen training that was palpable as we walked into the room. It was a mix of excitement for being together again, mixed with the anxiety of being assessed and tested on our learning over the past four months. The teachers and mentors guided us through more practices and language distinctions to help us to be even more precise with our language and more grounded and present with ourselves and others. Read More…

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ANAHATA CHAKRA: Is this love that I’m feeling?

by Stephanie Estice

In the womb, the heart is the first of our organs to form and be fully functional.  We might consider the brain to be of most importance, and yet, in a recent study of perception, when sensing images that were rated pleasant or unpleasant, it was the heart that had sensation first, before the brain. And, when the heart is in a state of coherence, it is the heart that sends signals to the brain that trigger states of well-being.

When you experience the energy centers, it becomes easy to see the depth of importance of the heart center. We are here to do our work in the physical, the emotional and the mental arenas of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd chakras, and yet many of us have a deep longing to explore the spiritual frequencies of the 5th, 6th and 7th chakras. What role does the 4th chakra, Anahata, the heart center, play in this dance of the energy centers?

Energetically the heart center is a bridge. It is a bridge between the earthly energy centers and the spiritual ones.  What we find in the heart center is love and compassion. It can start as that loving feeling you have when you feel good will towards another. It’s the sensation you have of warmth in the center of your chest when you connect with nature or when you hold an infant. And the more time you spend practicing this experience – through a practice of gratitude, through the heart openers you do in your asana practice, through noticing when you have sensations of warmth and harmony – the more you will gain a steadiness in this important bridge, a maturity of consciousness that will spill into all areas of your life.

I used to think that I would find my salvation in the energies of the spiritual chakras. At that time I didn’t realize that I was using my practices to try to escape emotional and mental pain. I had traded in meditation as a replacement for the role drugs had played in my life many years ago. There were times in yoga class that I heard the teacher speak of grounding, but from my years of experience trying to avoid the sensations of my physical, emotional and mental bodies, I had no idea what that meant. When asked to notice the sensation in my feet, I could sense nothing there. Thanks to the grace of a wise spiritual teacher, I was directed to practice being steady with the energy of the heart center – specifically that of the upper heart center, behind the collarbones. I worked on this for many months, and it has now continued on as a practice that has stayed with me for years. As many know with the Loving Kindness or Metta meditation, once we are able to connect with self-compassion, we are better able to see the suffering of all beings. Our heart grows. As my heart grew in more and more acceptance of all the places I had previously judged myself, I became gentler with myself and others. Ultimately I was then able to be with more experiences, with more sensation. Through the exercise of being with the energy of this bridge, I have been able to step into new learning that has helped me fully embody the rest of my human experience, which has led to balance throughout the energy body.

So listen…stop and listen to your heart center. Listen to the calling of your soul, that place of your knowing and remembering, to bring compassion to Self and others. Allow the harmony that this center radiates to wash over your being.

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Ocean City

by Angie Hay

I have a picture of myself at age 18 flying a kite on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland.  I am wearing one of my favorite shirts of all time, the same shirt I had my senior pictures taken in, a long sleeve black turtleneck sized 3XLT.  I imagined that I had this kind of flowy bohemian poet thing going on, but what you see in the picture is a tiny girl wearing a giant square.  The beach-goers around me are comfortable in tank tops and board shorts, but I am basically a head floating above a censor box of my own creation.

I should warn you in advance: this is not the before and after story you may already be imagining.  I was fat on the beach and I’m fat now.  I’ve been thinner than now twice in my adult life, each time the result of a crushing nervous breakdown during which eating slipped outside of the realm of concern or, really, possibility.  I lose weight when I spend lots of time crying; when I’m happy, I’m fat.  So I won’t be telling you I lost 75 pounds and finally wore that bikini.  This isn’t that kind of journey. Read More…

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Pose of the Month: Ustrasana

by Michele Vinbury

Ustrasana, or Camel Pose, serves to stretch and open the front of the body (throat, chest, abdomen, hip flexors, ankles) while extending and strengthening the back of the body. Ustrasana is also a go-to for relieving fatigue and can be a great alternative to Urdhva Danurasana for those with tight or injured shoulders. As a heart opener, we thought it particularly fun to look at during the Valentine’s season. Read More…

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Radical Self Acceptance

Yoga on High in FEBRUARY, Love Yoga, Love You!

by Marcia Miller

Right after I received the following quote I was asked to write a blog about one of the values we have listed in our Yoga on High mission statement, radical self acceptance. This value has become one of the most important markers for me of whether my spiritual practices are working, and what I most want to offer to my family, friends and students.  This quote was transcribed by Janine Harris  Degitz from a talk given last November by our teacher, Robert Gonzales.

 

Read More…

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Understanding Your Dosha

by Jessica Hunt

Ayurveda is a word in the Sanskrit language that translates to the science, or wisdom, of life. It is a consciousness based approach to healthcare helping to maintain balance and preserve health.

In Ayurveda, everything in the physical world is comprised of five elemental building blocks known as space, air, fire, water, and earth. Everything that exists in the external environment has its counterpart within each living being. Therefore, the characteristics of every substance we consume either serves to balance or aggravate the natural qualities of our constitutions. The three dosha types are vata, pitta, and kapha. Many people are not purely one dosha type, but fit predominately into one category and display secondary traits of another making up the body’s constitution.

What type are you? Read More…

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