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The Yoga Sutras

The true goal of yoga is to bring the mind under control. This goal is achieved through physical, mental, and spiritual discipline. This process or path is taught and described in the ancient text called the Yoga Sutras.

These teachings may not be familiar to the casual yoga practitioner who has joined her local gym to take a yoga class once a week. Her goal is to reduce stress or undertake a new fitness routine because she has heard that yoga is useful for those things. In North America, the popularity of Yoga has ballooned because of the health benefits of it. But more and more people are beginning to see that yoga is more than just a physical fitness routine. It is also a spiritual discipline that can enhance the deeper life of anyone seeking to grow closer to their own spirt or to God. The Sutras shine a light on that higher goal which is about the whole person and how that person may find a path to peace and happiness.

The Yoga Sutras written by Patanjali in approximately the 3rd Century BCE, are the foundational texts upon which the philosophies and practices of yoga are based. In these texts, Patanjali explores the inner workings of the human mind, the ways human being ought to relate to one another, and with themselves. It is a guideline to bring greater control to the one who practices yoga and unity with the divine.

The Yoga Sutras map out a path that is described as having eight limbs. As limbs, the path is not chronological or hierarchical. Each limb brings the yogi to greater awareness of self, deeper compassion toward others and a deeper connection to their own spirit as well as awareness of God or the divine.

One of the eight limbs of yoga are the Yamas which are an ethical code guides the yogi in how he or she should interact with other beings. It is the equivalent the “Golden Rule” in the west or the instruction of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Niyamas have to do with our attitudes and how we relate to ourselves. They are about self-control, self-knowledge and self-surrender, recognizing how little we are able to control.

Then there are the Asanas which is what most of us are familiar with. These are the postures which bring physical strength, balance, and flexibility. They are also able to help the mind to become calm and focused, thus being an important part of the goal of controlling one’s mind.

Another limb is Pranayama which is controlling of the breath. Pranayama coupled with the Asanas is an essential part of self-discipline and purification. Through the breath, relaxation, and calmness of the mind can be achieved.

Pratyahara or the control of the senses is next. Through control of the senses, the senses are no longer our master. This control happens during meditation when the mind is focused. This cultivates contentment by separating oneself from desires of the senses.

Dharana is another limb which is holding focus in one direction. This is achieved through deep contemplation. Through the yoga practice the mind is purified and focused.

The seventh limb is Dhyana which means worship. It can also be deep religious meditation. Though this concentration truth can be found and deeper understanding of reality and God.

Finally, there is Samadhi which is union with the divine. This is where the definition of Yoga is important. Yoga means union and it is through Samadhi union is achieved. This union brings truth and deep joy.

This is difficult to achieve but it is the ultimate goal of yoga.

The Yoga Sutras map out this journey. The serious yoga student will study the yoga sutras so that yoga is not just a fitness activity for the gym. It will become a lifestyle will change the heart and mind as well as the body of the practitioner.