The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali offer remarkable tools for understanding the practice of yoga and its benefits. The work is divided into four sections. The first section is an overview of the obstacles to enlightenment. Next comes an explanation of yoga and its eight limbs. Then, Patanjali gives us a look at yogic powers.
If we practice yoga with dedication, the sage tells us, we will be able to accomplish extraordinary things. In pada (section) three of the Yoga Sutras, we find out more about those things — yogic powers — and how we can achieve them. We also delve more deeply into nature of the material world, so we can understand the importance of learning to still and focus the mind.
Yogic Powers and Meditation
The second section of the sutras ends with an explanation of the fifth limb, pratyahara. Pratyahara, you may recall, is withdrawal of the senses. To become adept at deep meditation, we first need to turn our attention away from sensory distractions.
The Sixth and Seventh Limbs
The first two sutras in section three define the sixth and seventh limbs of yoga. They are dharana and dhyana.
Dharana is the binding of the mind to one place, object, or idea. (sutra 3.1)
Dhyana is the continuous flow of cognition toward that object. (sutra 3.2)
When we practice dharana, we focus on something. When we focus long enough—that is when the focus is continuous—we moved into the state of dhyana. Both practices depend on freedom from distraction.
Reverend Jaganath Carrera explains that it takes effort to get to dhyana. The first six limbs require effort, in fact. But once we reach this continuous flow of attention (dhyana), the effort stops. We achieve a natural state of peaceful focus and clarity. “The mind in meditation is peaceful, clear, and one-pointed,” Reverend Carrera says.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? And as you may suspect, we can do extraordinary things when our minds are clear, when we can focus, and when we are at peace. If you’ve ever been “in the flow”—completely connected to an activity—you’ve experienced this power.
For most of us, this state of peaceful focus and clarity is not something we experience often enough. We may have it for a short time, but then the world draws us away. We lose our focus. What happens then? We’re less able to accomplish extraordinary things, aren’t we?
Yogic Powers Transform Lives and Can Change the World
Many people who don’t understand yoga fear the yogic powers Patanjali speaks of in these sutras. The truth, though, is we practice yoga to connect with our true nature, and our true nature is peace. Peace is quite powerful.
Have you ever felt like you can take on the world after a great yoga class? If so, you’ve tapped into yogic powers. This is how yoga transforms people’s lives. If you stick with the practice long enough, you’ll notice you can do many things you could not do before. These extraordinary yogic powers don’t just transform individual yogis. They can change the world!