The Limbs of Yoga

Shaucha | शौच | purity & cleanliness

Shaucha is the 1st Niyama of Yoga; or the restraints of behavior. This concept that is central to the Indian religion and yoga and is part of what creates a clear and focused mind. It also means a clean body and sets of actions; its implies purity and cleanliness through all of life in a balanced way.

It is also important when speaking to aim to control your communications from a calm and peaceful mind. Saucha is most often practiced in daily life, whilst cleaning your space; or your car; doing your laundry or even taking showers. Nourishment and organization are also central to saucha.

Saucha and Santosha are very interconnected. One leads to the other, which is why saucha is the first Niyama and Santosha is the second. And remember that these are behavioral guidelines or ways to act around others.

Saucha’s concepts lend themselves to better Focus

Meditation was created to clear and enhance mental focus. Saucha is a part of that because meditation requires a little bit of preparation; sometimes a shower before, or simply taking off your shoes and sitting on a pillow or a mat, etc. So keeping space clean is an important part of that. In yoga, it is very important to keep the space clean of pests; especially in post WW2 India. It is also about creating a clean relationship to yourself; getting rid of the baggage so to speak. Cleaning not only enhances your mental health, but it also removes stress from your body. “Clutter and mess can create more stress and anxiety, but by cleaning, organizing, and reducing the clutter, people are able to take control of their environment and create a more relaxing environment that helps them focus better on the more pressing issues in their lives.”[7]

5 Techniques to create Saucha

  1. Meditate for a couple of minutes first thing in the morning. Clear your mind before your day.
  2. Neti Pot – clear your nasal cavity
  3. Dharana Meditation – focus on a single object and stare at it for 5 minutes or more. Choose a few objects of different distances for longer practice.
  4. Declutter and clean your house and your car
  5. Eat organic foods

References:

  1. The Art of Living Retreat Center – How to Live in Harmony with Yourself and the World Around You
  2. The Art of Living Retreat Center – Saucha – the First Niyama
  3. Bret Larking – What is Saucha
  4. Yoga International – Yamas and Niyamas
  5. Wikipedia – Niyamas
  6. Wikipedia – Saucha
  7. Very Well Mind – The Connection Between Decluttering, Cleaning, and Mental Health
  8. Forbes – the Mental Health Benefits of a Clean Home

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Dall-E & the E.T. - Santosha

Santosha | संतोष | Contentment | Satisfaction

Santosha, the second Niyama of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is sometimes spelled Santosa, is a portmanteau in Sanskrit, derived from Saṃ-prefix (सं-, सम्-) and Tosha (तोष (from root √तुष्, √tuṣ)). SaM-, means “completely”, “altogether” or “entirely”,[5] and Tosha (from the root √tus), “contentment”, “satisfaction”, “acceptance”, “being comfortable”.[5]

In modern Californian yoga culture, we say, “chillin” to express this. Contentment is the name of the game. Yoga and santosha are somewhat synonymous; it is a big part of yogic philosophy.

Dall-E & the E.T. - Santosha

Sam is similar to sum, totality and entirely. Tosha or Tushti (तुष्टि) is about appreciation, mindfulness, gratitude, harmony, an active inner contentment. But like all other Sanskrit words; there is a rather distinct philosophical implication behind this compounded idea.

Samtosa, or Santosha means inner serenity; a lacking of cravings and desires; satisfaction in the present. In a way, it is less reactive and more sustainable than happiness, which would be more like the upward part of a mountain that has a valley beneath it. It is like a gentle hum in the background of life that keeps you excited for what comes next.

Minimization is important in the philosophies of santosha. Less things and obligations; more relationships, time with nature, etc. We have so much in the way of our happiness; how can we possibly enjoy ourselves if we don’t take any time to feel that way. Difficulty will always exist; especially with big challenges. Santosha exists in small moments; like taking your time to enjoy the first sip of coffee you have or to eat a decent breakfast.

Relinquishing expectations can also create a path for cultivating Santosha. This is something I’ve had to do with my own life in big ways; letting go of thinking that I would be a full-time yoga instructor; or that I was ready to start a landscaping business by myself have been big lessons for me. I am finding Santosha in the journey of creating these things in balance.

This concept, Santosha, has been a theme as I’ve started a new job at Bushnell’s landscaping service. It will be great to have steady work and will provide an excellent opportunity to learn from a successful, high quality tradesman.

Contentment is hard when you have to let go of a successful and fun yoga class. My Wednesday noon class at East Wind in Roseville always felt special, like a fun and welcoming place to come back to. However, transitioning that class to another teacher has been a long time in coming. I’ve had several projects where taking the time to teach yoga at noon has been very difficult. I still teach Tuesday evening 7pm and Sunday evening 5pm classes.

DALL·E & the E.T. - Job's loss (biblical)
DALL·E & the E.T. – Job’s loss (biblical)

I’d like to add another class or maybe two; I’d like to teach more yoga at the very beginning and the end of the day so we’ll see if that can work out this year!

EROS part 3 has also been slightly put on the back-burner; I am still finishing the music, just a lot slower than I was able to when I had all day to work on it. I have a couple more dnb tracks and a couple of house tracks to get out there. Some really cool sound designs on these! The new full- time job has been really time consuming, which is great! But I don’t get as much time for music so I’ll have to double down on sound design and melody writing after work.

Niyama #2

Santosha is the second of Patanjali’s Niyamas; it means contentment and also unison with what is; reality. Santosha is an ethical concept in Hindu philosophy. It is a tenet of yoga and corresponds to the mental state that you are trying to create with asana. With focus, you can create a state of santosha by moving through all the things that make you unhappy or dissatisfied and accepting them; or coming to terms with their conclusions.

Santosha means to be completely content with, or satisfied with, accepting and comfortable in what is. To be present to everything and happy with it. This creates a personal growth that allows you to be okay with anything that is happening around you. Similar to a tree growing ferociously on the side of a cliff.

5 Ways to Create Santosha in your life

Dall-E & the E.T. - Job's cosmic spiritual battle
Dall-E & the E.T. – Job’s cosmic spiritual battle
  1. appreciate difficulty in your journey
  2. entertain the point of view of others
  3. be nice, but don’t give away your attention
  4. create commitment and discipline
  5. learn to love your flaws and weaknesses

What does Santosha really mean

Santosha is a method for creating happiness. It is not complacency! It is a method for drawing contentment from within to make what is happening on the exterior irrelevant. So a lot of times, you have to spend time creating it; it won’t just appear after a moment on your mat. Sometimes you have to sit with it for a few hours, or do 2 yoga classes in a row. Meditating really helps too, but that is an internal relationship that has to be built up over time. You have to learn how to enjoy being in warrior 2 when you don’t want to be. You have to show up for it, then stick with it and accept your feelings as it happens. Yoga is just like a simulation or practice ground for what happens in life.

Santosha is really cultivating a space inside of yourself that is nice to come back to. Much of Indian philosophies relate nourishment and satisfaction to commitment and discipline. This commitment and focus to contentment and satisfaction is a self-fulfilling prophecy in many ways. I believe it is how there are so many people out there that are happy without excess.

Santosha is Deep Satisfaction

Santosha is within your control; you simply have to actively cultivate it. It is about the story in your mind and realizing that is a fabrication and it detracts from your fun! Our true power exists in our ability to act and create in the present moment; when we are lost in our story, we lose sight of that. This also means recognizing that our words do not have power over us; when someone else uses a specific word that grabs your attention, remember that you give it power by spending time focusing on it. Redirect your attention and it loses its power and more important its meaning. We are the creators of meaning in our lives by choosing what we spend our time doing and who we spend our time with so we have to make sure that we are doing things that we are passionate about!

References:
  1. Ekhart Yoga – Santosha
  2. Yoga International – Is Santosha (Contentment) Really Possible?
  3. Hindu American – 5 Things to know about OM
  4. Yogajala – Santosha
  5. shahzadpurfarmyoga.com – Samkhya Karika 50, Satisfaction is of 9 Types, 4 Internal & 5 External
  6. Wikipedia – Santosha

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Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya means to follow Brahman. To seek supreme reality, self, and god. In this aspect, Brahmacharya is inherently Hindu. It also represents fidelity when married, simple living, and celibacy when unmarried. Brahmacharya is also taken more seriously by many ascetics, including being complete celibate and emphasizing chastity for obtaining moksha.

However, Brahmacharya is a concept that exists in Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism for monastic life that includes complete celibacy and no marriage.

Brahman is the universal spirit of Hinduism, the “divinity” that is at the core of each being, but also represents absolute reality and the universal-self.

Charya is a word that means following conduct, following, engaging, and is usually translated as virtuous.

Together, these words form the concept of following dharma towards moksha, or liberation. This concepts form the 4th Yama in the Hindu tradition and one of Mahavira’s eight teachings. It is a concept that follows alongside dharma, providing guidelines to act upon.

Okay, so let’s adapt this concept to modern life. If you are acting in a divine way, you aren’t doing anything that doesn’t feel great to you, this can include whatever you want it to include. You avoid pain and suffering. Other people’s judgement of the lifestyle that you choose is irrelevant to your own happiness, so forget about what people think about how you live. You can do whatever you want or need to do to make yourself happy, as long as it doesn’t intrude upon the divinity of other people. Understanding that each being is divine and contains this magic spark of life and that they are free to express that in whatever that being chooses to is important to being able to express your divinity.

Obviously this can apply to a wide variety of things. Suburbs made of concrete and tar do not respect the divinity of the land they are on. The trees around the developments have to be implemented and instead of cultivating and terraforming in congruence with the growth of the land, it is chopped away and replaced and completely controlled. We are not respecting the divine nature of the self-sustaining natural ecosystem by replacing it with our structures and squares that aren’t made in conjunction with prosperity for the land that it is on.

It also applies to relationships. How often do you feel great after a one night stand? What kind of bonds do you want with the romances in your life? How is it that we always remember our freaking roommates?!? How can you possibly be happy living with another person? I think a lot of relationship things come down to compatibility. Can the two people stand each other while they change over time? Do they explore together, or drive around in circles separately? What do they want out of life? What are their values, or what do they consider important? All of these things have to be compatible, not necessarily the same. When you find someone who has values, habits, beliefs, etc. that are compatible with your own, you can feel a sense of overwhelming calm, as if it was meant to be. Sometimes you can forget what it was like before you knew that person. I think this is all a side-effect of the human condition, of our own divinity, if you will.

But anyways, what does that mean, compatibility? Hell if I know, but I think it means that you don’t over-react to each other, that you live in somewhat similar circumstances. Tolerance is key, but honestly, it sucks. Shared passions I think make the greatest compatibility.

Find someone else that is compatible really comes down to the search. How you go about looking for love. Friends can become great lovers. So can expedited friendships that immediately turn into relationships. No need to rush things, everyone is already thinking about sex way too much in this country. People tend to find each other when they are following their passions. A lot of times, this is at work. I think that understanding that the other being is divine is key to the core respect of the relationship, or at least understanding that they are the same as you in so many ways. Even if you don’t use the word divine, instead maybe “hypercomplex”, “ultrasmart”, “understanding”, etc. I think divine is a great word to describe human capacity and potential. It is the only word that really encapsulates the tremendous power of it all, of human existence.

After all, we are closer to the size of mountains than the size of atoms. We are not insignificant cosmically, especially the complex molecules of our bodies regulatory systems. Whether you believe in divinity, or nothing, I believe we are talking about the same thing.

You see, to believe there is nothing is to deny the sense and all prior experience. To believe in something is order with the way of the cosmos. So if we make the assumption that the cosmos is, then the next question, inevitably, is what is the source of the cosmos. The only possible answer to this, is the cosmos itself. So the universe is its own source. To believe that a god created this source is to lack accounting for the source of god. So Hindus believe that Brahmacharya is to act in accordance with the universal laws of dharma, or the universe. Celibacy is definitely not necessary to truly be immersed in Brahmacharya.

 

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Mahavira

The Founder of Jainism

Mahavira or Varhamana was the 24th and last Tirthankara (person who has conquered Samsara) of Jainism, therefore the founder, or reformer of the Jain religion. Mahavira, like the legends of the

Mahavira
Mahavira

buddha, was born into a royal family in Bihar, India. The name Mahavira means great warrior, though in youth Mahavira received what he desired, his father being the king. Some traditions state that he was celibate, some that he married, but most agree that he was born in 599 BCE achieved moksha in 527.

Mahavira spent 30 years traveling through India to teach his philosophy with eight cardinal laws. Mahavira abandoned his royal life at the age of thirty. Over the next twelve years, Mahavira honed his senses and killed his desires so that he became all-knowing and all-seeing in the eyes of his disciples. He taught that pursuit of pleasure is endless, equanimity of mind, and self-restraint as a means to obtain enlightenment of the greater population. At the age of 72, in 527 BCE Mahavira died and is said to have obtained nirvana.

Tirthankaras
Mahavira to the right

Mahavira taught 8 core tenets, which correspond to other teachings you are likely familiar with in the aim to increase quality of life. The eight teachings are: ahimsa (giving the highest respect and most possible kindness to each being), Satya (truthfulness, which leads to confidence), Asteya (non-stealing, one should not take anything if not properly given), Bramacharya (control over sexual pleasure), and Aparigraha (non-attachment). Sound familiar? These are the 5 yamas, or the first limb of yoga. It’s interesting to think that the two religions overlapped, but in truth, all religions do in one way or another.

Mahavira was intensely intellectual and even the Buddha is argued to be one of his mentors. He paved the way for all of Jainism and for the religions of India to flourish during the next hundreds of years. He taught a philosophy of enlightened society that was influential and coincided with traditions that would last India until the modern-day.

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hindu_vs_buddhism

Hinduism vs. Buddhism

Comparing two religions in their similarities, differences, and the in-between

“Can you do a simple comparison of Hindu versus Buddhism at some time in the future?” -Inga D

This article comes from a request from my good friend Inga, thanks for the great idea!

Most of my experience with these two religions is based upon my knowledge of their holy texts and the philosophy I have gained through school and yoga. I am extremely excited to experience these religions more fully in about 3 weeks when I leave for India. Kathmandu is supposedly a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist traditions and I will be there from April 3rd to the 17th.

Hinduism and Buddhism seem to come from a shared ancestry, both place an enormous amount of emphasis on non-violence amongst other core tenets. Both are more lifestyle oriented ways of life rather than simply belief systems and have origins in Ganges culture of northern India during about 500 BCE.

Buddhism supposedly focuses on the teachings of a single teacher while Hinduism’s teachings are from scattered sources, but there are many influences that are shared, or responded to in the Buddhist religion. For instance, the Upanishads seemed to be responded to by many Buddhist tenets and in fact, most Hindus consider Buddhism to be an offshoot of their religion, considering the Buddha to be an avatar of Vishnu.

Even the meditational 7th and 8th limbs of yoga, Dharana and Samadhi and shared as meditation foundations in Buddhism. Both religions believe that life is full of suffering based on your prior karma and that it is your purpose to follow Dharma, or your righteous path which leads to enlightenment, or freedom from suffering. Both religions reject the idea of angels (protective spirits), or prophets, tend to be extremely open to female ascetics (more so in Buddhism), and both are open to atheists. Click for more information on Hinduism or Buddhism.

Now onto major differences in the religions, we’ll start with what could be the basis of all religions: god and creation. Hinduism believes that god is in everything, that all beings are a part of the Brahman, or eternal energy source of the universe. Therefore, there are a handful of primary deities and many accessory deities in the Hindu pantheon of gods. Buddhism, on the other hand, believes that there is no creator god and that at the core of the human, there is nothing. They explicitly reject a creator god and do not pay heed to any delusions of god that other religions may have, though they respect the beliefs of other religions. Jainism, which has many shared roots with both religions, teaches a sustaining god at the source of the universe who has always been and always will be. This seems to the biggest difference in religions.

The second, and arguably most important difference in the two religions are the tenets of enlightenment. Hindus believe enlightenment is liberation from Samsara to be one with god while Buddhists believe that Nirvana is truly realization of the nothing within, giving freedom from suffering by realizing the freedom of nothingness.

The third major difference is within the meditation practices of each religion, most likely because of the different ways liberation is obtained. Buddhists practice meditation with liberating cognition, or thought patterns, while Hindus practice to slow the mind and to cease thought. Because god is at the source of nothing, focusing on nothing is focusing on god, opposed to Buddhism in which focusing on nothing would not be liberating. The Buddha was the one to express a constant mindfulness, rather than one that would be turned on to practice yoga and meditation, then off during the rest of the day which was a big leap from the philosophy of the Upanishads.

Both religions believe in miscellaneous deities, though Hinduism is the only one to accept them as more than illusion. Hinduism can even have personal gods, as well as personal pantheons of gods. Many Hindu believers belief in thousands, if not millions of different gods, depending on their tradition. Neither puts an intense focus on these devas, or illusory gods, but both are reverent towards the beliefs of the individual.

Hinduism tends to be stricter in practice, at least from the original tenets of Buddhism. Hindus will be extremely mindful while during their rituals, exacting, meticulous, and during yoga you can see that there is a flexion of focus and mindfulness. Buddhists take this concept and apply it constantly, always striving for greater mindfulness, even during things like defecation and chores. Buddhists use the mind as a tool for exploration, while Hindus generally think of the mind as a hinderance from enjoying the pleasures of god.

The most impactful religious knowledge is made more powerful in conjunction with knowledge from different religious traditions and with global perspective on humanity. In other words, combining multiple religions to take the best aspects of each can lead to the most powerful realizations about our shared existence as humans and can help us to unveil our nature and hopefully, to find freedom from the sufferings of this world, in one way or another.

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aparigraha

Aparigraha – the 5th Yama and 1st Limb of Yoga

Aparigraha | non-desire

Aparigraha is the concept of non-greed, or non-possessiveness from Jainism and the Raja/Ashtanga yoga traditions. This means limiting possessions to what is necessary or important to live. The five yamas are shared with Jainism in their sacred vows and Sadhus traditionally have very few, if any possessions.

The word literally means non-grasping and greedlessness. ‘A’ creates a contradiction or antonym in sanskrit, so parigraha means reaching out to take for one’s self. The idea behind the concept is to take no more than what is necessary. This includes refusing gifts.

Aparigraha creates detachment from material and worldly things. Strict Jains will completely renounce all property and social relations. But these extreme examples might be considered out of natural balance. Human contact and relations are healthy and necessary parts of life.

Renouncing material possessions is impossible in a consumer based society. So we have to work outside of the ideal, in the realities we face as a modern world. But understanding that excess can easily create suffering is an important concept. Acceptance of what you have been given is the most important lesson here.

The key is the amount of energy one expends on the taking, or accumulating possessions. Great examples of this are shoe collections, expensive super cars, and 13,000 square foot houses. The excess literally creates inconvenience, not to mention the attachment to a material and fleeting object. One can understand that these things likely do not contribute to happiness, but can easily take away from contentment; the addiction to needing more is an easy trap to fall into. Detachment from material possessions creates freedom. If you have seen ‘Fight Club’, you can understand how material possessions can slowly begin to take over your life. Take what you need, but understand that the idea of ‘more’ can be toxic.

Social interaction are also important to detach from, another main concept of aparigraha. It allows you to appreciate the intricacies of the interactions and to see the true nature of the relationship. The idea is to live in harmony with the people you are interacting with. Not attaching to particular conversations can be necessary in complex relationships. Being able to separate from others to see the truth in situations is extremely important to friendships, marriages, parenting, etc.

I will conclude that like all other things, aparigraha requires balance and should not be taken on with a full head of steam to lose all possessions and completely detach from the world forever. Instead, work the idea of having less into your life, maybe getting rid of a third car, or not being worried about the size of your television (although, big TVs are pretty awesome!). So take this concept, like all others, in moderation, especially at first.

It can be easier to detach from the world, rather than be accepting of it. This is the final piece of the puzzle, to be accepting of what you truly do need! This will vary from individual to individual, so comparing yourself to others is quite irrelevant for positivity of the concept to have an effect on you.

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Asteya

Asteya | Non-stealing | अस्तेय

Asteya is a Sanskrit word; it means non-stealing, non-coveting, and not entering into debt. Asteya is a yama, meaning it is a traditional Yama, as well as a part of the 8 limbs of the Ashtanga philosophical tradition.

But Asteya means more than non-stealing money, possessions, or ideas; it is about the flow of energy in your life. Putting more in that you get out. Giving rather than taking. Being of service, rather than taking advantage to further your self.

I think that the idea of selflessness is important to this concept, the idea that the world does not revolve around you. You are a part of something larger than yourself merely by the fact that you exist. So having awareness of your effects on the environment and outside world is probably the most important aspect of Asteya. Once you have awareness of your environment, you can start to understand how you interact with it.

So intrinsically, Asteya requires awareness and as the awareness elevates, so does the need for giving back to the world around you. Joy is said to be greatest when help others, so living your life in service to the health and prosperity of others is really what Asteya is trying to get at. Stop thinking of your self and start thinking about everything that is intertwined with your self; the sun, the cycles of the moon, the plants and animals that are living around you, etc. These things have far more of an effect on us than I think we truly realize, so living in harmony with the world will lead to harmony inside of you.

I think that the general concept of Asteya has been completely lost; it is not so different from Dharma in that you allow for life to occur while you enjoy it, rather than trying to determine outcomes. Knowing how the energy in your world is flowing is intrinsic to understand what you are giving back and taking from the world.

The easiest example to understand is food, especially animal products. Humans can only eat as much meat as there are animals in the world. Therefore, in order for the system to be sustainable, you must give back more than you take, or at least have the equation be balanced. Ideally, you give extra so that there is abundance.

Our world is full of takers, people taking and using more than they need. It isn’t our fault; we want to live life the easiest and most convenient way possible, as any animal should, but we are slowly learning that convenience is actually not fulfilling. It is empty. This is how taking things that you didn’t earn is; they are empty, full of lacking. But the lacking is inside of you; it is the lacking of integrity that makes you feel empty.

Try to give back more than you take. This is something our ancestors have really sucked at. We have been taking from the planet since the birth of our race; we just continue to get more efficient at it. One day, we will either understand that the Earth exists for us to nourish and feed as much as it exists to feed and nourish us. It’s a relationship, a two-way street.

Not taking more than you need is difficult. It’s like asking someone who has had one cookie in a jar to stop eating them. But understanding the importance of that first cookie is what is truly important; it is important to appreciate every aspect of the first cookie so that you don’t have to look for more. You understood how awesome the cookie was when you first ate it.

This is especially prevalent in the United States, where we do things simply because we can. Consumerism is teaching us that life is not about the amount that you consume, but it’s about the way that you interact with the things that you consume. Appreciation is probably the most important aspect of this.

The final piece to the puzzle is knowing that you don’t need more. You could probably survive for two weeks without food. Try fasting for a day; it will really help you to appreciate how much you eat!

There are Buddhist monks that don’t eat unless they are given food. This is the ultimate form of Asteya; only taking what the universe offers to you. I don’t know if such extreme measures are needed to understand the concept (they are possibly necessary to completely appreciate it), but it helps to understand that you should be content with where you are in the universe. It’s no better or worse than anywhere else, all of that judgement only exists in your thoughts. Allowing yourself to receive what the universe provides is a practice and a balance; don’t expect the universe to put grains of rice into your mouth from the sky!

Try to integrate this concept of giving as much as you take into your life; driving is huge for this, we expend such massive amounts of energy for no reason! Try to drive less, remember you are taking from inside of the Earth so you can travel its surface.

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Samadhi

The 8 Limbs of Yoga (Part 8: Samādhi | समाधि)

Samadhi is the 8th and final limb of yoga. Samadhi is a state of concentrated meditation that transcends the intellect, mind, and body and complete detachment from the physical world (meaning consciousness becomes detached from the body). This final stage of yoga is also known as enlightenment and can be achieved in Corpse Pose, after meditation involving Dharana and Dhyana. In this state, the yogi can suspend consciousness away from the body, being at one with the environment and surroundings while not being limited to physical restraints of the body. Samadhi represents a state of enlightenment and over time the yogi obtains a ceaseless state of transcendent bliss.

In Buddhism, Samadhi is known as the 8th wheel of the eightfold path referring to right concentration. Buddhists believe that this right concentration leads to extraordinary intelligence and even superpowers. But these are simply distractions for the practitioner from the goal of Moksha, or liberation. Samadhi leads to a pleasantness in your current life, knowledge of the divine third eye by concentration on light, clear comprehension of the fluctuations of feelings, perceptions, and thoughts through mindfulness, and the elimination of the 5 Skandha’s (attachments to matter, sensation, perception, mental habits, and discernment). In Buddhism, Samadhi does not refer to enlightenment, rather a state of concentrated meditation that leads to enlightenment. Nirvana is enlightened freedom from attachment and Samsara through Moksha.

Samadhi is a state of supreme detachment, where consciousness is free to leave the body and can expand beyond the borders of the physical corpse of the consciousness. It is a supreme state of bliss that is experienced in Savasana, or in meditation after a yoga practice is completed. This is why you don’t skip Savasana! Meditate after your yoga practice, it is far more powerful after the body has been tempered. The sensations and insights that flow during these meditation can alter your perspective and even mental processes that can change. It is integral to the yoga practice to rest in Savasana and meditate; they are the most important things you can do to amplify the healing and regenerative qualities of yoga.

Samadhi is intricately related to consciousness. It can be described as full awareness, perfect concentration, or an altered state of consciousness characterized by ananda and sukha (bliss and joy). Vyasa, one of the authors of the Mahabharata, said ‘yoga is Samadhi’. It is ultimately complete control over the fluctuations of consciousness including distractions and normal functionality of the nervous system and conscious experience.

Patanjali said that Samadhi has three different aspects: Savikalpa, Asamprajnata, and Nirvikalpa. In Savikalpa the mind is still conscious and the imagination is active and the state can be described as holding onto the imagination with effort. Asamprajnata is a step forward from Savikalpa and is not quite gross awareness, but is a heightened state of conscious awareness. Nirvikalpa is the highest transcendent state of consciousness, the highest of the heights of yoga. It is an engrossing awareness where all things are one and pure unadulterated bliss, wholeness, and perfection are experienced. It is pure joy, freedom, and steady bliss in the knowledge of awareness.

Samadhi is like balancing blocks on top of one another, where it takes years to learn all of the nuances of each block and how they work together. Simply allowing the body to meditate is not enough; full concentration and focus is required to obtain the state of pure freedom.

The final liberation of the yogi comes at the time of death, known as mahasamadhi and is a controlled exit of the consciousness from the body to merge consciousness with the divine. Maha means great.

I would like to dedicate this post to BKS Iyengar, who died this morning, one of the greatest (yoga) teachers the world has ever known. My hope is that he found mahasamadhi in his last hours and that he has found the freedom and peace beyond. He brought yoga into the west and gave everyone seemingly limitless knowledge on even the most minuscule and minute details. He gave us in the west the opportunity to scale the heights of Raja yoga and changed the world for the better. Thank you.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga (Part 8: Samādhi | समाधि) Read More »

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The 8 Limbs of Yoga (part 6: Dharana)

Dharana is a single pointed concentration of the mind, focus on a single thing supported by the retention of the breath. This is the 6th state of yoga, after the withdrawal of the senses in pratyahara and after the body has been tempered, the breath calmed and stilled, and the external environment cared for, as well as the internal bodily function of the yogi. Indeed, Dharana is a late stage of the progression of the yogi and must be followed with care and conscientiousness. It it towards the end of the path that it is easiest to stay from the ultimate goal. Don’t end up lost.

Dharana is a key to this. The yogi evokes a single concentration during the practice; dristhi towards the ultimate goal of union with the divine. It is only when a yogi is supported by his endeavors outside that he will be free to pursue the infinite realm of feeling and what is inside. Humans are stuck between two infinite abysses; the infinite smallness of the atom versus the infinite expanses of space of the universe. Our consciousness seems to be able to find stillness despite it all, to be able to create stillness and balance in the midst of the chaos of our universe. This is the gift of Dharana.

It is with the single-minded focus that the yogi is free to pursue blissful freedom. Possessions, attachments, and excess are left to follow the purest bliss, the highest nirvana, and ultimate happiness. This limb is the first of the Samyama, or utilizing Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi to truly know an object of the mind’s focus. This is why it is important to minimize distraction with the 5th limb of yoga, pratyahara, so that the objects of the senses are relinquished and pure concentration of the divine sought.

This is the first of the last three stages of yoga, each of which is intrinsic to the elevation of consciousness and enlightenment into the world of awareness. These are the deepest levels of meditation and lead into the darkest fathoms of the unconscious mind. Stay tuned for the 7th limb of yoga, Dhyana in the next blog in the series.

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