Mystical Powers

Posted February 26th, 2013 by Erin under Recommended Materials, Student Writings, Yoga Philosophy.

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.


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