Posts Tagged ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’

Partner Yoga Workshop

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Sutra 111.35: hrdaye cittasamvit

B.K.S. Translation:  “By samyama on the region of the heart, the yogi acquires a thorough knowledge of the contents and tendencies of consciousness.”

Karuna Yoga 200 Hour Teacher Training student Anna Hansen and her daughter Heidi practicing partner yoga

This Sunday, February 16th at Karuna come join Eileen Muir as she guides you through a series of partner assists that will strengthen and open your standing poses, backbends, twists and forward bends. You can come with a good friend, a partner, a daughter, son, or anyone special! If you do not have a partner we will find you one.

Sun. Feb. 16, 2014
1- 4 pm

Removing the Obstacles

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Jack Kornfield says “Within us is a secret longing to remember the light, to step out of time in this dancing world. It’s where we began and where we return.”

In our seeking, many of us find yoga- its goal is to deliver a spiritual practice that unites us with ultimate reality.

Through the sutras, we learn that following the fundamental path of yoga requires us to disengage from the material world (Prakriti) because our spirit self (Purusha) has become entangled through the five afflictions (kleshas). These are: ignorance (avidya), egoist pride (asmita), desire (raga), aversion (dvesa) and fear of death (abinivesa) and they lead to suffering of our physical, emotional and spiritual selves. According to Patanjali, we need to disentangle spirit from matter through constant, inner practice to purify body mind and spirit (abhayasa) and renunciation or non-attachment leading to spiritual surrender (vairagya), in order to truly know ourselves. By following the yogic path, we are provided with the means to awaken our authentic selves that lie beyond the order of nature and remain unchanging.

As we began our teacher-training program, Eileen introduced us to a non-negativity diet, one way of taking a moment-by-moment inventory of how the various kleshas may be impacting our lives. By noticing our tendencies to deny truth or our failure to be curious, we chose avidya. Through a competitive spirit, we demonstrate asmita, and through attachment to outcomes, possessions or even particular people, we align ourselves with raga. We demonstrate dvesa when we employ judgment, of ourselves and of others, and abinivesa when we place ourselves before others in an attempt to outwit death.

When we are not experiencing our true selves, we are entangled with the layers of unreality (colorings) of the mind. These are dual- aklistas are thought patterns that hamper us on our path to enlightenment and klistas are patterns that move us forward. To observe the coloring of our thoughts is a useful practice. By noticing and acknowledging to ourselves that they are in fact, just thoughts, we can move to the next level of noticing if they are colored or not, positive or negative, serving us well, or not. According to Patanjali, ignorance creates all the other obstacles. We have it in our power to cultivate concentration and remove these obstacles to enlightenment. We have the choice to end our own suffering through practice and renunciation. As we learn to detach from the outcomes of our work and focus simply, clearly and continuously, on the process, we can teach ourselves to notice without judgment and through these observations, we create the vehicle for change. The Buddhists teach that what we resist persists. When we practice with vairagya, we observe without resistance; we grow. By noticing and contemplating on the kleshas in the form of a daily inventory, we begin the process of eradication.

Because the nature of all, including ourselves, is of Prakriti, we carry all the characteristics of nature (gunas) in various imbalanced ways. Our nature changes from one moment to the next, exposing us to the tendencies of sattva (illumination), rajas (passion) and tamas (inertia). The gunas cause us to perceive the world in unbalanced ways. Hopefully, as we learn to quiet the mind, we will see more clearly with a heart that may be more trustworthy than the fickle distortions of the mind.

In any case, the colorful klista sanskaras, the imbalanced state of the gunas and the kleshic tendencies are part of the human condition and the sutras provide us with a means of comprehending and a vehicle for transcendence.

Kathi Burke is a recent graduate of Karuna’s 200hr Teacher Training Program

Sutra IV.7 -IV.8

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Sutra IV.7: karmasuklakrsnam yoginas tri-vidham itaresam

The karma of a yogi is neither white nor black; of everyone else it is of three types.

translation by Edwin Bryant

The following interpretations are written by Vanessa Serrota.

“The wise person lets go of all results, whether good or bad, and is focused on action alone. Yoga is skill in actions.” –Bhagavad Gita

This sutra teaches us to disengage (detach) from the fruits of our actions, just as the Bhagavad Gita teaches. It is important to note that the sutra says that in addition to a yogi’s actions not being black (tamasic) or grey (rajasic), neither are they white (sattvic). This may seem confusing, as the first two limbs of yoga themselves are directing us toward illuminated, “white” actions. I think the sutra is showing us that the first two limbs are just the beginning, an important place to start and that ultimately, in order to really go beyond, our motivations must become rootless, so that we detach even from the desire to do good. To me, this sutra is about being exactly present in this moment. If we surrender the fruits of our actions, we avail ourselves for what is, right now. We open up the possibility of being moved by the grace of God.

Sutra IV.7 speaks to the work we do in this method of yoga as well. When we talk about “it’s not one size fits all” and about “knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it”, concepts which are hallmarks of the Iyengar tradition, it is another way of saying “take the right action at the right time”. Which cannot be planned ahead. We have never been here before. What is this moment asking of us?

Sutra IV.8: tatas tad-vipakanugunanam evabhivyaktir vasananam

From [these three types of karma] the activation of only those subliminal impressions that are ready for fruition [in the next life] occurs.

translation by Edwin Bryant

This sutra is about the accumulation of karma. Each of the three kinds of actions create impressions. Even the white (sattvic) actions create impressions, as the white actions are equally driven by desire. These impressions are like seeds inside of us, manifesting as karma when the conditions are suitable. We carry these seeds of karma with us through however many lifetimes it takes for the right conditions to occur. By making right actions at right times, the fruits of the actions of the yogi are offered to God devotionally, thus the yogi accumulates no seeds of karma

Vanessa Serotta graduated from the 500hr Teacher Training with Eileen Muir. She teaches level 1-2 Monday mornings and will be teaching the next 8 Week Beginner’s series at Karuna in September


Monday, June 3rd, 2013
As a part of the 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Karuna, students spend a great deal of time developing their practice of Svadhyaya, or self reflection, by reading various scripture and writings. The primary text used throughout the course is The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The following is based on a meditation on the second sutra of this text submitted by Kitty Troger, a current trainee in the program.
Given the definitions of Yoga as chitti-vritti-nirodhah in Patanjali’s Sutra 1.2, how does the way you do yoga challenge the way you think and feel? How does the way you thinkand feel challenge the way you do yoga? Discuss and be succinct.
Yoga challenges us to calm the mental noise that results from sensory
stimulation. We often confuse this mental noise with who we are, but it is only a
reflection of the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that we have gathered over
the course of our human experience. Yoga is a way of being, a way of quieting all
of the preconceptions that we have developed, thus allowing us to see the world
with new and unfiltered eyes.
This is difficult for us because, like all creatures, we rely on sensory input and
experience to develop our view of the world. However, all of these accumulated
“truths” actually blind us to the underlying reality of the world and the natural
essence that is our selves. If we could only maintain the inquisitive senses of a
child, untainted by society, culture, and other learned behavioral modifiers. The
art of yoga is regaining our connection with the pure essence from which we
arose from the ether into being.
Once we realize our connectivity to this pure essence, the truth we were
searching for becomes self-evident. Yoga is the process of removing the
experiential programming from our minds, inevitably bringing us into unity with
the ultimate reality. At the end we emerge, as if from a chrysalis, fresh and
renewed, no longer searching and instead simply being. At that point we realize
the perfect bliss of living, living in the moments that have surrounded us all along.
This is the power of Yoga.

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.

Gayatri Mantra

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Om bhur bhuvah svah
tat-savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah pracodayat

The Gayatri Mantra is a sanskrit verse based on a hymn from the Rigveda. Savitur means ‘of the sun’. This chant is a chant to the God of the sun, Savitri. It is said to be a prayer that brings the sun into the heart. As a poetic verse, there are many translations available. Often is is a nice practice to look at multiple translations an see which one is resonant for you. Here is a translation of the words [1]

tat–that (God)
savitur–of the sun
varenyam–the best
bhargo (bhargas)–light, illumination
dhimahi–let us meditate (a verb)
dhiyo (dhiyah)–thought(s)
yo (yah)–which
nah–of us, our
pracodayat–May it push, inspire (a verb)

This mantra can also be used in meditation, or samyama, on Sutra III.26 (or III.27 in some translations) from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

bhuvana-jnanam surye samyamat

By performing samyama on the sun arises knowledge of the different realms in the universe.

(Translation: Edwin Bryant)

By Samyama on the sun the yogi will have knowledge of the seven worlds, and of the seven cosmic centers of the body*

(Translation B.K.S Iyengar)

*the seven chakras: muladhara (seat of the anus), svadhistana (sacral area), manipuraka (navel), anhata (heart), visuddhi (throat), ajna (eyebrow center), sahasrara (crown of the head)

Pause by Janan Scott

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Last month the 200 hour teacher trainees were assigned to study sutras I.33-I.37. Janan Scott wrote this poem in response to the instruction to persistently focus on 1.34 (pausing after the breath flows in and out) and 1.35 (steadily observing sensations as they arise from moment to moment).



Lid against lid, lashes meet
like soft teeth sliding into place.

I trace along the dotted line,
unzipping myself from the crown of my head
to the backs of my heels, until my skin falls away, inside out.

And now unencumbered by this outer shell
I am opening to the delight and curve of each comma,
wandering through what is delicious and unapprehendable,
upswing, spiral, space, the places of betweenness and pause.

1.33 maitri-karuna-muditopeksanam sukha-duhkha-punyapunya-visayanam bhavantas citta-prasadanam By cultivating an attitude of friendship toward those who are happy, compassion toward those in distress; joy toward those who are virtuous, and equanimity toward those who are non-virtuous, lucidity arises in the mind.

1.34 pracchardana-vidharanabhyam va pranasya Or [stability of mind is gained] by exhaling and retaining the breath.

1.35 visayavati va pravrttir utpanna manasah sthiti-nibandhani Or else, focus on a sense object arises, and this causes steadiness of the mind.

1.36 visoka va jyotismati Or [streadiness of mind is gained when] the mind is pain free and luminous..

1.37 vita-raga-visayam va cittam Or [the mind becomes steady when it has] one who is free from desire as its object. One can meditate on the pure-minded yogi

Sutra I.12: abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Last month teacher training students contemplated Sutra I.12, abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah: Practice and detachment are the means to still the movement of consciousness. They wrote responses to the following question: In consideration of Patanjali’s assertion that both practice and non-reaction are required to sustain stillness, how can I work toward a peaceful mind even when confronted with conflict or adversity? Students were also instructed to not confuse non-reaction with repression, indifference, lassitude, or slothfulness and to observe the tendencies of gripping, wanting, aversion, and/or clinging.

a long and unwieldy poem about cycles

I. What might

I might be unknown to the world,
a balloon cut loose and spinning upwards and alone

or I might be the punctured silk of a kite, unraveling in the chaos of the wind,
flailing like a broken wing that winces with each turn

II. The problem with words

cut the words. cut the shit.

III. The fears that eat us

Like if I softened I might sink

Like if I sank I might drown

Like if I drowned I might die

Like if I died, I would die.

then what?

IV. Scene: Kitchen, 8pm Tuesday night, after yoga class, girl and boy play cat and dog

I was so fucking pissed at you and I wasn’t going to let go,
No. I was gonna hang on and nurse that fire,
make it breath flames into the whole house.
and I knew it, all the while I knew I was clutching my anger
cradling it, giving it all of the space in my collapsed and breathless chest.

my mother says that anger is really sadness, concealed.

V. Practice

so I wrote a poem about cats and dogs.
you and me, I said, we’s like cats and dogs.
we chase each other’s tails in fury, we scratch and bite,
and then we’re back to bodies curled and shared sleep.

You never do your dishes. It’s a fact.
I feel hurt, my hurt becomes anger,
I shoot an arrow from my tongue,
it pierces your navel.

Now you feel hurt.

VI. Practice part 2

What if.

You don’t do your dishes
and I don’t care ?

That right there is the moment it bubbles out of me, the protest,
the nine-year-old that says but that’s not fair ! So what do I do ?
I swat at the fly that lands on my head, and then I’ve got blood
on my palm.

What if.

I let the fly do its thing,
buzz around my ear and then perch on some patch of hair.
surely the fly will move on, surely so will I.

VII. The morning after, the sky’s the limit

I’m the same person.
Unless I choose otherwise.

The roots of choice grow in the imagination,
we can only become what we dare to imagine.

Janan Scott, current student in Karuna’s 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training

Beginner’s Mind and Sutras I.1-I.4

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Students in Karuna’s current 200 hour teacher training were assigned to read sutras I.1-1.4 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the essay Beginner’s Mind by Abbess Zenkel Blanche Hartman. Here are some of their responses.

20120406-082242.jpg Karoun Charkoudian, 200 Hour Teacher Training Student.

Over the past three weeks as I have been introduced to the Iyengar practice, as well as re-introduced to my own yoga practice (away from teaching) I have gained a heightened awareness around how my thoughts affect my practice, and my life. Beginning my own practice again has helped me to start to still some of the fluctuations of the mind both on and off of the mat.
Sutra 1.2 Yogas chitta vritti nrodha, defines the purpose of yoga – the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind, the vrittis. When I first started practicing at home three weeks ago, I was trying to get the practice over with as quickly as possible. The vrittis included keeping close track of time, counting breaths as quickly as I could, and just generally trying to get it over with.
I noticed how far away I was from Abbess Zenkel Blanche Hartman’s description of the “Beginner’s Mind.” Ironically, it was a glimpse of the “Beginner’s Mind” that brought me to the Iyengar practice in the first place. I remember the first time that I did shoulder stand with a chair last Spring — the engaged support – the energy went woosh through my body, and my legs were so high up in the air. I didn’t wonder about anything around me or what the clock was doing, I just felt like, wow, this is great! I felt like the child with a spoon that Hartman describes: “just engaging with it…it was a delight to see what he could do with this thing.” This was a whole new way of doing yoga, and it woke me up. I didn’t know I could feel this way after 8 years of practice – so new and refreshed. I could get a glimpse of this very “intimate” place with myself, as Hartman references.
Now that I have committed to the teacher training, I feel like getting back to that beginner’s mind is a lot more difficult. Upon this path to get back to beginner’s mind and bring Sutra 1.2 to life – in my life, I decided to examine where else I was trying to move as quickly as I can while watching the time, as I had in my home practice. Surprise — I exhibited this behavior in most of the activities in my life!
The next morning my boyfriend wanted to “hang out” and I could not be present with him, I was pre-occupied and resentful and all I could think about were errands that needed to get done. And then when I finally ran the errands, my mind was already on the next task, not able to get that done fast enough. I thought that once I got the errands done I would be more relaxed. But I wasn’t — it was one thing after the next — exactly as I had been feeling from pose to pose in my home practice. I’ve been acting this way for a long time — just the awareness of this behavior was a great first step for me. This is how my home practice is starting to challenge the way that I think and feel. Here was a perfect example of the seer absorbed in the changing states of the mind (Sutra 1.4 Vritti sarupyam itaratra). I get so lost in the chitta vrittis, I can’t see anything else.
Once I had become aware of this behavior, I was able to start to release it, and for the next few days in my home practice my thoughts were no longer on the clock, but rather focusing in the body and breath: After a particular Tadasana – Uttkatasana series at home, I felt this incredible sense of heat rushing through my arms and my hands — what a sense of “alive” it was.
Although I was able to start to find more stillness in my practice, It seems that the rhythm and discipline will take some time. I need to find a deeper place. As Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj says, “[the mind] may go blank occasionally, but it does it for a time and reverts to its usual restlessness.” And just like that, I took two days off of my yoga practice, and Tuesday morning I found myself waking up and worrying. Why was I worrying so much? I realized that I hadn’t done my Iyengar home practice in two days and it was really affecting me in the way that the mind was “dwelling in the vrittis” — Sutra 1.4 Vritti sarupyam itaratra. When I was doing a regular Iyengar practice, I was feeling a strong physical and emotional body.
I woke up again the next morning worrying, but this time I went right to my home practice. After pranayama, all the worries and thoughts (detrimental vrittis) seemed much further away. And after the Iyengar home practice, I was laying in Savasana and suddenly all of these solutions to my problems just started to float up to the top of my consciousness, just like that. I also had this “aha” moment where I suddenly felt I had all of these support systems in my life. I haven’t felt that sense of support since I moved to Springfield 3 years ago. I sat for a while after savasana just basking in that feeling of support. It was a really neat shift, on the path to yogas chitta vritti nrodha, Sutra 1.2.
According to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, the mind will always be restless, and it is the Self that is always at peace. The sutras say that as we still the fluctuations of the mind the seer can become aware of its peaceful self and abide in that nature.
And so, in conclusion, as I continue on in this seemingly endless shift between fluctuating mind and brief glimpses of the deeper peaceful “Self” that is referred to by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Patanjali, and Abbess Zennkei Blanche Hartman, I find that patience and discipline in continuing a regular yoga practice are paramount. As I peel away the layers of emotions and thoughts, step by step I can catch more glimpses of the seer abiding in its true nature.

20120406-083234.jpg Janan Scott, 200 Hour Teacher Training Student

yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah


I am neither teeth nor tongue but can be like both:
Soft and mushy in places, square and clenched in others.

Teeth and tongue are the gates to the throat, this deep opening
that cocoons around the root, wet and slippery as the sources of the self.

Today I am dancing from my spine
to the humming tune of an unquiet mind.

Tomorrow will sound more quietly.


Come, I have left my door ajar because I thought you might pass
just as the shadows of the sun pass through the day.

I welcome you chattering monkey, restless chipmunk chewing
on my ear, because it seems the only way to free you from me.

Something about love, it is the only balm for the broken minded.
The chewed-upon ear, the clenching teeth and wriggling tongue.

Something about the absence of love that echoes and troubles so deeply in us.


Now will always be the beginning, new as the glowing and downy
fur of fresh chestnuts when released from their prickly shells.

I am not seeking, just opening my own chestnut skin,
peeling away old beginnings to receive new ones.

Begin again. We are always in the business of beginning,
collecting ourselves in the composted layers of all we do not know.

Often I forget this, for it is only the beginning.

20120406-083955.jpg Suzie Goldstein, Yoga teacher, 200 Hour Teacher Training Student


Yoga strips away
Aspects of my identity
The aspects I cling to
Fluctuations of the mind
Constantly telling me
What not to be
Showering me in the limitations of
My ability.
Will I ever be good enough?

Vrttis keep me busy and unaware
Vrttis block the authentic shimmer of my heart.

Like a one way mirror,
The heart cannot be seen.
Hiding in the pervasive reflection of the mind.
Hiding in the abundant waves of my thoughts.

Yoga delivers me to my insides
Complex and churning
The waves of my thoughts crash
Against the shore of my heart
Clear vision
Raw vision
Hollow insides
But wait!
Don’t give up!
Kick up again!

The power of the fluctuating mind
Convincing me to stay away from that which stills it.
That yoga where the mind drops into the heart
And the heart drops into the mind
And there is
I am me but I am not.
I am nothing
I am everything.

A challenging place to be
To feel yourself
To face your inner workings

How do you bridge the gap from that world?
To this One?
This world inside.
To be okay in the space of my raw heart
To be okay in the space of my vulnerability.
To be yoga.
To be yoked.