Sunday, January 29, 2012

PATANJALI YOGA SUTRAS - Verse.2.54 - Pratyahara, the start of INWARD JOURNEY - Vs.2.55 - Mastery of Senses - End of Saadhana Paadha



sva vishaya asamprayoge
chittha svaroopa anukaarah
iva indriyaanaam pratyaharah

Ø  sva = their own
Ø  vishaya = objects
Ø  asamprayoge = not in contact with
Ø  chittha =  mind
Ø  svaroopa = its own form
Ø  anukaarah = following
Ø  iva = like this
Ø  indriyaanaam = the five sensory organs
Ø  pratyaharah = withdrawal of the indriyas (the senses), bringing inward

The five sensory organs are the Gateways of the mind and the Ego to the outside world. All knowledge comes from their conjunction and interaction with the outside world.

This means, all knowledge of the world and even of the body-mind complex of one’s own self comes from the five senses and their interaction with the world.
Yoga is our inward journey. Patanjali has defined yoga as the cessation of the chittha’s various activities. It must become silent. It will not be silent – as long as the interaction of the senses with their respective sense objects continues.
The Eye sees the images and forms in the world. The ear hears the sounds. The Nose receives the smells. The tongue receives the taste signals. The skin receives the touch sensation.

But, the external sense organ is only a receiver. Its synthesis and understandin takes place solely in the Chittha itself. But, if the receiver does not transmit any signal from outside, the chittha becomes helpless in its outward journeys.

If the eye does not see, the ear does not hear, the nose does not smell, the tongue does not taste and the skin does not feel the touch – the chittha’s contact with the external world is cut off. Then, there is only one way left for the Chittha. For some time, it battles with the impressions already stored in itself from the Past. The reason for this – is to encourage the sense organs to do their outward forays again. 

When the sense organs do not do that – the Chittha – has only one way to go. It is INWARD.

Let us understand that this INWARD JOURNEY, called Pratyahara, starts only after yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama. By this time, the mind is sufficiently motivated and trained and encouraged to be calm and silent. The rhythm of the Sadhaka’s breath itself is now harmonious with the universal breath. Therefore, the interest of the sadhaka in external Objects comes down sufficiently.

His readiness to start his inward Journey is now complete.

But, the first step in this inward Journey is to delink the sense organs from the sense objects. It is for this reason that a sadhaka needs to choose an appropriate, lonely place for his Yoga Sadhana. The place must ensure that sense attractions are minimal , and if anything, they must encourage his inward journey.

This means that the sense organs will leave their sense objects and become one with the Chittha and strive to take on the original form of the Chittha itself – rather than the outside sense objects.

Sense objects are the tools for outward journey. Now, they also aid in the inward journey by  merging themselves with the Chittha.

All that happens now – happens inside chittha – with no help from outside, no distraction from outside.

Now, Chittha has to fight its own recorded past. This happens for some time. This means, different thoughts go on bombarding it from within itself.

But, they cannot survive without help from outside. When that is denied for sufficient time, all these thoughts die – and the Chittha becomes calmer and calmer. 

The Chittha travels from alpha, to beta to theta state and so on – and becomes calmer and calmer
This state of the Chittha where it travels totally inward (along its sense organs) is called Pratyahara –which is the fifth step of Ashtanga Yoga – and the first inward step. The first four steps – yama, niyama, aasana and pranayama – are basically with an external orientation though they do impact on the INTERNAL.

But, Pratyahara has left the outward world completely behind and has started the INWARD JOURNEY.


thathah parama vashyatha indriyaanaam

Ø  thathah =  thereby
Ø  parama =  the best, or the highest
Ø  vashyatha = mastery
Ø  indriyaanaam = of the sense organs

This step – of Pratyahara – gives excellent and the highest form of MASTERY for the Sadhaka over his own sense organs and their functions.

A Sadhaka, after sufficient practice of Pratyahara – is able to see the world Drama – as Drama – and is able to see his own Goal of Samadhi, or enlightenment – very clearly now.

It is true that - Samadhi is still a Goal – but, the journey has started on the HIGH WAY now. The preparations for the Journey – the first four steps – are over now. The sense organs are no more distractions. They too aid in the INWARD JOURNEY.

After Pratyahara starts the sixth step of Dhaarana. Dhaarana, Dhyana and Samadhi are SPECIAL STEPS  in Yoga. They are very special and they go together almost always. Together, they are called samyama. They are special – for several reasons.

Now – the Sadhaka has travelled from Sadhana – to a phase called vibhoothi. His capabilities for Yoga have become unquestionable. Nature – the entire Universe - acknowledges his capabilities. He becomes the Master now – and nature starts serving him.

But, his Goal is not – becoming master of Nature. It is something else and something more.

These are therefore dealt with by Patanjali – in the next 2 chapters – vibhooti Paadha and kaivalya Paadha.

These will start in the Next Post.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

PATANJALI YOGA SUTRAS = Verse.2.51,52,53 = when does mind become qualified for concentration or Dhaarana?



bahya abhyantara
vishaya aakshepi chaturthah

Ø  baahya = external
Ø  abhyantara = internal
Ø  vishaya =   realms
Ø  aakshepi = going beyond
Ø  chaturthah = is the fourth

The fourth pranayama goes  beyond the immediate spheres of external and internal Pranayama.

OSHO – gives a beautiful definition of pranayam – “breathe with the whole”.

It indeed is so – especially when it comes to going beyond the immediate spheres of the three pranayamas earlier mentioned.

The first three are body-mind oriented and most of the mechanics happen inside the body or in the immediate vicinity where the external retention happens.

But, though we call it external retention – the names given in yoga  treatises is baahya kumbhaka and antah kumbhaka.  Either you are filling your lungs with the inhaled air or with vacant space.

Pooraka is inhalation. Rechaka is exhalation. Kumbhaka is retention. If the air is inside, it is antah-kumbhaka; If it is outside, then, space fills the lungs and air (or praana) is outside and it is bahya-kumbhaka.

But, these processes of pooraka, rechaka and kumbhaka are done by sadhaka’s EFFORT in pranayama.

In the fourth type of Pranayama – the sadhaka needs to beyond these three. How? Watch the three processes. Become a witness to them. Become A Sakshi. Then, breathing of all three types occurs but, slowly the sadhaka goes beyond them. Pranayama happens – but he remains not the active doer – but the sakshi. It is true that pranayama is still done within his body-mind complex. But, he himself becomes a witness of the whole process. The mind-body complex totally becomes calm – and becomes prepared for Dharana and other steps of Yoga.

Patanjali – at the very beginning of yoga sutras has indirectly hinted – that becoming a witness, a drasta – is a key aspect of  reaching the ultimate goal. Becoming a Drasta – for the pranayama process is the fourth method of pranayama.

When he becomes a witness to the whole process – he is slowly  transcending the mind-body limits too – and is becoming a witness of the breathing process happening in the whole universe. The total movement of praanic energy is now witnessed by him. It is no more the Sadhaka who is breathing – but the Universe.


thathah ksheeyathe
prakasha avaranam

Ø  thathah = thereby
Ø  ksheeyathe = Gets destroyed
Ø  prakaasha =  illumination
Ø  avaranam = outer veil

What happens when the Sadhaka does Pranayama? This is explained now.

The manas (or mind) – which participates in the pranayama – is usually covered by a veil of maya; all negative qualities can be taken as maya for this purpose. All dualities can be taken as maya. These are destroying the clearsightedness, the focus of the mind, always – and distracting the sadhaka.

Pranayama can gradually reduce, and destroy this veil and make the mind shine in its original splendor. After practice of Pranayama – it is the experience of every sadhaka that mind rejects all dualities, becomes calmer and calmer  and settles down to a blissful period of internal peace.  The veil covering the mind now stands destroyed by the pranayama.


Dhaaranaasu cha
yogyathaa manasah

Ø  dharanasu = for concentration (dhaarana)
Ø  cha = and
Ø  yogyathaa =  qualifying, achieving capability
Ø  manasah = mind

When the mind has practiced pranayama – what further happens?

Mind becomes qualified and competent for performing  Dhaarana, the sixth step of Ashtaanga Yoga. Pranayama is the fourth step and Dhaarana is the six the step.

Though mind is now qualified to enter into the sixth step – there is yet another step between the two – called pratyaahaara. We will deal with pratyaahaara in the next Post.

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PATANJALI YOGA SUTRAS - Verse.2.50 - Pranayama, the regulation of praanic energy



baahya abhyanthara stambha vrittih
desha kaala sankhyaabhih
dirgha sookshmah

Ø  baahya = external
Ø  abhyantara = internal
Ø  stambha = retention
Ø  vrittih = activities
Ø  desha = specific locations
Ø  kaala = specific durations
Ø  sankhyaabhih = by these counts
Ø  paridrishtah = regulated by
Ø  deergha =   prolonged
Ø  sookshmah = subtle or small

Patanjali is describing basic details about Pranayama. We all know that the process of breathing consists of inhalation, exhalation and some amount of retention after every inhalation (retention inside) and after every exhalation (retention outside). These are the three processes involved generally in Pranayama.

Inhalation can be deep and long. Inhalation can also be short and subtle.

Likewise, exhalation can be deep and long. It can also be short and subtle.

Retention inside, after every inhalation, can be for a longer period or for a shorter period.

Retention outside, after every exhalation, can be for a longer period, or for a shorter period.

The word Desha refers to various Body parts or internal organs. One can focus once attention on a particular body part (Internal organ) while doing the Pranayama – which in turn, benefits that part. It is here that we have to understand that we are concentrating not on the air we breathe as such – but more on the Praanic Energy  that goes inside us during inhalation and retention; and goes outside during exhalation and retention outside.

There are different breathing patterns for activating the praanic energy in different organs. For example, we can breathe in for a count of 8, then retain for a count of 4, then breathe out for a count of 16 and then retain outside for a count of 4. While doing this, we need to keep the attention on the particular internal organ to which this count relates. Likewise, there can be other counts like 16,4,8,4;  4,8,16,4 and so on. But, this needs to be learnt under a well trained master.

Thus desha refers to the internal organs of the body and kaala refers to this timing of each aspect of breathing. While, we always associate with this breathing which happens between nostrils and lungs only – our attention must be on the praanic energy which moving all over the body – and also outside the body.

Pranayama can be fast or subtle and long or short.

Different types of Pranayama practices exist for different purposes.

After, Aasana – Pranayama is a very useful practice, before we go to the next higher step.

It stabilizes the breathing, in both nostrils, to an even flow of energy to all body parts – and keeps them at restful awareness.

It also makes the entire body healthy and calm. The health aspects of Pranayama are extensive.

One guiding principle in Pranayama is – “NEVER OVERDO” any aasana or any pranayama – beyond your limits. This means – you must Know your limits. Do not do any practice till it pains or hurts. This is a very important principle one must always keep in mind.

When Patnajali said “sthira sukham” for aasanam, it applies equally to Pranayama. Do it comfortably and with stability; Do it in such a way, that you enjoy it and do not suffer it.  This is especially so – when after pranayama, you want to perform Pratyahara and Dharana, which are the next steps. Patanjali is specific that aasana should precede pranayama.

Thus, inhalation, exhalation and retention are considered three essential parts of the pranayama.

There are other extensive details about the benefits of Pranayama – dealt with in Hatha Yoga.

The prana energy essentially travels in what are known as nadis. There are thousands of them but three main nadis travelling from the nostrils downwards upto moolaadhara Chakra are important. These are called the left Ida nadi; the right pingala nadi and the central sushumna nadi. The three main nadis meet at mooladhara. Pranayama stabilizes the flow of prana through all the nadis in the body. The purposes of the three main nadis are different and the sushumna is a special one, which is normally not active, but, once it becomes active, is known to confer huge benefits on the Yogi. All further details on this are outside the context here.

Every sadhaka can however experience the pleasant calmness that pervades his body and mind after a regular pranayama practice. This is all that is needed for the sadhaka to continue his Yoga Sadhana further.

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