The first three sections of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali lead the yogi to the understanding that yoga practice — especially deep meditation — will give him or her amazing powers. The powers themselves are not the important thing, though. It’s the ability to transcend time and illusion that is a yogi’s true reward.
In his book, Inside the Yoga Sutras, Reverend Jaganath Carrera says of a dedicated yoga practice, “The reward is almost unthinkably great: the end of suffering, doubt, and craving, which evaporate like a nightmare upon awakening.”
In a sense, awakening from a dreamlike state is the goal of yoga. To do this, we need to recognize impermanence and separate it from truth. The tools of yoga allow us to do this. Patanjali gives us yoga practices to help us understand our minds, prepare our bodies for stillness, and become still in deep meditation. Then we are ready for a direct, mystical experience of truth, of our Self, of God.
Continuing a Deep Meditation Practice
Yoga is a journey, and once we understand where we’re going, it’s easier to commit to the practice. It’s a long and challenging journey, though. Sometimes it’s easy to give up.
Deep meditation isn’t something you can just switch of your cellphone and do. There are many other practices that prepare us to enter higher states of consciousness. We need to take the time to master these practices.
Yoga is multi-faceted. If you recall, Patanjali tells us there are eight limbs of the practice. Here’s a review the eight limbs:
- The five yamas – a set of ethical rules for living dealing primarily with restraints; the yamas include ahimsa (non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), bramacharya (right use of energy), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
- The five niyamas – a set of ethical rules for living dealing primarily with observances; the niyamas are saucha (cleanliness), santosha (contentment), tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (self-study), and Ishvara pranidhana (surrender to a higher power)
- Asana – the physical practice of yoga (the postures)
- Pranayama – breathing exercises
- Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses/freedom from distractions
- Dharana – loosely defined as concentration
- Dhyana – loosely defined as deep meditation
- Samadhi – union with the Divine
Staying on the Journey
Every person on a spiritual journey experiences doubt and times of wondering if reaching higher spiritual levels is possible. The distractions and temptations of life get in the way, or we may simply feel we’re not getting much benefit from our spiritual practice.
Keep practicing anyway! And don’t beat yourself up for the times you get sidetracked or fall off the path.
Here are a few tips to help you stay on the journey:
- Practice meditation, gradually increasing the amount of time you spent in silence.
- Read and learn as much as you can about the Yoga Sutras and other aspects of classical yoga.
- Go to class or practice at home as often as possible. Try to find teachers knowledgeable about all eight limbs so your practice is not limited to asana.
- Find a community of yogis and support each other on the journey!