Posts Tagged ‘Samyama’

Commentary on Sutra III.36- Susan Yard Harris

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Currently the participants in Karuna’s weekly Sutra Study group have been discussing the third chapter of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Each week one student takes one or two sutras, reads several translations and commentaries from sources such as B.K.S. Iyengar and Edwin Bryant, summarizes their translations, then writes an interpretation of their own. Susan Yard Harris, a Yoga teacher at Karuna, shared this interpretation of Sutra III.36:
Sutra III.36:
By samyama, the yogi easily differentiates between the intelligence
and the soul, which is real and true. (Translation by B.K.S. Iyengar)
Samyama means holding together, integration; the application of dharana, dhyana,
and samadhi on an object of meditation. By dharana and dhyana, the practitioner
can experience the difference between the intelligence and the soul. (Read
Iyengar’s commentary on the Sutras, p. 217.)
Susan’s commentary:
Yoga provides us with techniques that enable us to quiet the citta and experience
the light of the soul. Cultivating awareness of the fluctuations of consciousness,
attention to the breath when thoughts arise, practice and detachment by quieting
the organs of perception, and meditation on the effulgent light in the center of the
heart (which is the soul) teach us to observe our thoughts and emotions with a
loving witness and open us to experience the light of the soul.
Teaching awareness helps our students become more conscious. Teaching
compassion helps them (and us) develop a loving witness to their thoughts and
actions on the yoga mat and in life. Attention to the breath and pranayama quiet
the mind and bring students into a receptive state so that light can arise. A well-
thought-out and well-taught sequence builds physical strength and quiets the
nervous system for dharana and dhyana. Students will learn that steadfast practice
over a long period of time develops their fortitude and devotion.
Just as teaching sincerely and from your heart helps your students open to
experience their own truth, personal practice becomes, over time, the way you live
your life.
Susan teaches “Wise Yoga- 50 and Up” on Mondays from 4-5pm at Karuna. The Sutra Study group is on Thursdays 5-5:25 and is free and open to the public.

Mystical Powers

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

We have been studying the third chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali for the past couple months at Karuna. The chapter is aptly named “Mystical Powers” as it describes eventual experiences and capabilities a yogi may acquire after a level of mastery is achieved of the last 3 limbs of Yoga, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. As an effect of doing these three limbs together, samyama, one is said to be able to do things such as know the future (3.16), know their past lives (3.18), read minds(3.19), know of their own death (3.22), and cease experiencing hunger or thirst (3.30), among other things. This chapter of the sutras comes with a warning that certain powers, though gained through yoga practice, can take one off their yogic path if squandered or coveted.

In our discussions of these sutras we have kept in mind that within the cosmology of the Yoga Sutras these powers are believed to be quite real and literal. We have also discussed the ways that these powers can be understood figuratively within our own practices. When discussing one sutra, the ability to assume the consciousness of others (3.38/39), many of us made linkages to our asana practice as well as our experience as teachers. When we ‘come watch’ a pose being demonstrated in class we are observing the person doing the pose as though we were in that body, or as though that body was our own. When one teaches asana one has to relay techniques of embodiment of not just physical form but of philosophy as well. In order to be adept at this teachers have to try to feel what their students are feeling in order to provide options to guide them in the right direction.

Looking at the third chapter figuratively can provide us with openings to the ideas offered and provide us with insights to strengthen our practice as teachers and students. Owen Wormser, one of the current students in Karuna’s 200 Hour Teacher Training, captured these images of a bobcat in his yard the other day. After seeing how quickly this animal seems to become invisible, we were inspired to revisit Sutra 3.21: When samyama is done on the form of one’s own physical body, the illumination or visual characteristic of the body is suspended, and is thus invisible to other people.

Photos taken by Owen Wormser

Erin McNally is a Yoga teacher currently participating in advanced training at Karuna.