Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:1 TAPAH SVADHYAYESVARA PRANIDHANANI KRIYA YOGAH. “To practice Yoga one needs to accept that it is hard work and study, with humble surrender to a higher power.”
Tapah is a concept in Yoga that is very important and multi-layered. It is a process of elimination of all that is undesirable in order to refine our body, actions, habits, and eventually, the mind. It is discipline, inner drive, focus, dedication. This Sutra, however, tells us that we must do what we can, what we should, but with humble understanding that we are not the masters of everything that happens to us. We must accept the outcome that is given to us by a higher power (Pranidhani). All we should do is focus on the action, not consequence. Kriya Yoga is Yoga of action. A Yoga asana practice can be challenging for the body, but it should not generate agitation in the mind. Yoga wants us to hold a mirror to clearly see all the layers of our being. We get information about our physical body through asana, our pranic (energy) body through pranayama, and our mind through meditation. The mind is used as a tool of meditation to operate in this world. But there is no need to suffer, even though sometimes, if it is going to save our lives, we must endure hardships. Thus begins Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras, a chapter that talks about the obstacles on the journey to personal freedom and how to overcome them. Stay tuned!
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Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:25 “Without this ignorance, no such union occurs.” TAD ABHAVAT SAMYOGABHATO HANAM TAD DRSEH KAIVALYAM
When the Self recognizes the distinction between itself and the perceived world, it becomes enlightened. It can see its nature even while abiding in the physical world. Without this knowledge it doesn’t, identifying so closely with what it experiences.
This is the concept of the inner witness in Yoga practice that we try to cultivate. By establishing in the witness state, we can gain inner peace and joy, because all the worries stem from being too enmeshed with the senses. But if we wake up from the trance of the senses and realize the separate nature of the Self, we can be liberated. In the next sutra, Patanjali will describe exactly how to break free.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:24 “It is because of ignorance that consciousness loses its sense of Self when uniting with the perceived world.” TASYA HETUR AVIDYA
When the Seer doesn’t know the difference between the Self and the Seen – that is ignorance. Because of this ignorance, the Self mistakes what it experiences for itself. We start to think, “I am happy.” “I am sad.” “I want this.” “I don’t want that.” Yoga asks, “Who wants? Who needs?”
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:23 “Without each other consciousness and reality it perceives are nothing, but together they manifest the power of their true nature.” SVA SVAMI SAKTYOH SVARUPOPALABDHI HETUH SAMYOGAH
SAMYOGA is union of consciousness with the physical world it exists in. Without the body, consciousness is nothing and knows nothing. The body (from here on “the body” includes the reality it perceives) is nothing without consciousness. As stated in a previous sutra, they both need each other to exist and to fulfill their purpose for existing.
This sutra goes further and says that it is through the body that consciousness can also know itself. Without the body, consciousness would have no way of knowing its Self. The only problem is that when they unite consciousness becomes immersed in the reality that the body supplies for it so completely, that it is confused about who is who. It starts to think that this is all there is, and that this is the Self. This self-identification is described in earlier sutras as the source of suffering, because it causes so much craving, fear and aversion.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:22 “Although the one who has achieved enlightenment is liberated, others continue to live in their world of illusions that is reality for them.” KRTARTHAM PRATI NASTAM APY ANASTAM TAD ANYA SADHARANATVAT
Are money, position in society, beauty, age, and skills real? What’s in a name? For most people these things are so real in fact, that they live and die according to these truths they hold dear. But are you using these mental constructs, or are they using you? Yoga ponders that question and tells us that if we live our lives unaware, pulled by our desires and fears, at the mercy of our senses and the illusions they create, then we are nothing but a product. We forget that underneath it all there is a smiling and joyful pure awareness.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:21 “The seen exists only for the sake of the Seer.” TADARTHA EVA DRSYASYATMA
Different creatures see the world differently. A bee sees ultraviolet light, a dog smells cancer, a cat senses an earthquake, and a bat hears the shape and location of objects.
Humans, too, experience the world through their mind as the senses gather information. These senses and their abilities and limitations is like a filter that distorts reality so we can make sense on it. The purpose of the brain and the body is to serve the consciousness that abides in it, and all conscious beings have their own Purusha (pure consciousness) that experiences Prakriti (physical world), each according to its senses.
Purusha is neither male nor female, but will identify itself as such because of the body it is in. It is neither tall nor short, but will identify itself as such, etc., etc. ad infinitum. In the Eastern philosophy the senses that perceive have been compared to horses (Indriyas) that run where the mind (Cit) steers them, but the horses have blinders on their heads, so they can only see what’s in front of them. Yoga sees that as a bo***ge, limiting and suffocating, inducing suffering and brining pain. Taking the blinders off is the goal of a Yoga practice, to be liberated.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:20 “The Self is nothing but pure consciousness that uses the mind to see the world.” DRASTA DRSIMATRAH SUDDHO’PI PRATYAYANUPASYAH
Consciousness and the body it abides in depend on each other – the body is a vehicle for the mind, whereas the mind needs the body and its senses to experience the world.
The mind tells the body where to go and what to do. Although the mind is the master of the two, it still needs the body to survive, and that is a problem. The relationship between the mind and body is so interdependent and symbiotic, that it makes it hard to separate the mind from the body. Even though the soul is pure awareness, it sees through its agent and loses its identity in the process of identifying with it.
This identification with “the seen” is what Yoga defines as the main problem of human existence and the source of suffering, because the mind has no other purpose but to see (experience) the world. If we learn to differentiate between the two, we can be liberated from this trap, and enjoy the world and being alive in it, in a nutshell, become enlightened.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:19 “Matter evolves from potential to manifested, from general to specific.” VISESAVISESA LINGAMATRALINGANI GUNA PARVANI
After the big bang matter in the universe evolved, and it’s amazing that ancient Yogis were able to see what the Webb telescope is hoping to glimpse at the Lagrange point.
The same amount of matter exists, none is created or destroyed, it only goes through transformation, depending on what force of Nature, or guna, is more active (see previous sutra). From general matter with potential to become something specific and unique, elementary particles organize into atoms. Matter can change through chemical and physical processes, and manifest as something else. All orders of being are manifestation of fundamental qualities of Nature. Isn’t this cool?
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:18 “What we see is forces of nature (gunas) - equilibrium, activity, and inertia, which give us experiences through our senses, but from which the true Self can also be liberated.” PRAKASA KRIYA STHITI SILAM BHUTENDRIYATMAKAM BHOGAPAVARGARTHAM DRSYAM
This sutra basically states the meaning of life as Yoga sees it – to enjoy it and become free from it.
These forces of nature, these three gunas, are always changing and activity becomes inertia, then back to active state, for a brief moment achieving equilibrium. The push and pull of these forces is very strong, because we are also part of nature, our body and mind are also made of the same matter.
If the one who sees it all learns to distinguish the Self from its embodiment and recognize the various forms it takes, the Self becomes free from the suffering of this ever-changing life in flux and become a just a witness to the play of Life.
Yoga Sutra of Patanjali 2:17 “The cause of that avoidable pain is identification of the Seer with the Seen.” DRASTR DRSYAYOH SAMYOGO HEYA HETUH
When you see yourself in the mirror, what are you looking at? Yoga philosophy makes a distinction between the consciousness that abides in the body, and the body it abides in.
The identification with what we are looking at is considered the cause of suffering, because not only we identify with the physical body we see in the mirror, we identify with our culture, language, education and skills. We identify with our beliefs about the world and ourselves.
This dualistic view is at the core of Yoga philosophy and its main inquiry – who is experiencing the pleasure and the pain? When the one who is aware becomes aware of his awareness, we start to ask ourselves – if I weren’t looking at it, would it still exist?
The reality that another creature is experiencing is very different. The reality that we see is a product of our senses as interpreted by the brain. Most of what we “see” is an illusion, an interpretation, glimpses of this and that connected by the brain into a picture that makes sense, but only for the one who sees.
Yoga Sutra of Patanjali 2:16 “Pain that has not yet come is avoidable.” HEYAM DUHKHAM ANAGATAM
This sutra is one of my favorites – so simple and yet so profound. We cannot do anything about the suffering that has happened, but we have means to avoid suffering in the future. In the upcoming sutras Patanjali will talk more about the causes of suffering and how to avoid the pain that they bring.
Yoga sutra of Patanjali 2:15 “Those seeking meaning in life experience a lot of suffering because of the emotional pain caused by memories of the past, fear caused by having things we are afraid to lose, and desires that pull us towards pleasure. These three forces (three gunas) control the mind.” PARINAMA TAPA SAMSKARA DUHKHAIR GUNA VRITTI VIRODHAC CA DUHKHAM EVA SARVAM VIVEKINAH
Some important concepts are introduced in this sutra that we need to understand in order to make sense of how the mind works. Samskaras, for example, are thoughts about the past that have become patterns to the point that they control how we feel and act today. The event is over, but out feelings about it stay with us for a long time. These feelings affect the way we conduct ourselves not only mentally with choices we make, but physically as well, because emotions affect the body and its posture.
These feelings become subconscious patterns, trapped in the body-mind, sometimes manifesting in unexpected outbursts or actions that seem compulsive or illogical, but in reality stem from a samskara. When we practice Yoga asanas (postures), we are trying on different forms, different postures, each communicating with our subconscious a certain emotional or mental pattern. It’s like taking off your old pajamas and putting on someone else’s clothes. It can be rather uncomfortable, especially in the beginning. So some Yoga poses become favorite, and others we just don’t like, because they resonate with our samskaras in certain ways. But, if we know that samskaras exist and can recognize their manifestation in our Yoga practice through our emotional response to them, we can start to break free from them. Tolerating and actually leaning into an emotional discomfort of an asana can gradually break the samskara and create a new pattern, one you consciously chose.
When you start to like asanas that you didn’t like before – it’s a good sign that the new and strange clothes you’ve been trying on are actually becoming your new wardrobe. It’s like gaining a new vocabulary – with Yoga poses, we learn new ways of posturing, and new patterns of emotional response, which makes us more versatile and therefore resilient, more independent and free. Free, because at some point everything becomes a choice, rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
The fact that we have a mind capable of cognizing, remembering and forecasting is what makes the human condition so painful, especially for those of us who want answers and a meaningful existence. We understand that all joys are fleeting, that loss is painful and not only possible, but pretty much guaranteed. Fear of loss is a source of suffering way before the loss actually happens.
And so we seek, crave, and strive for pleasure. We want to stave off pain, to acquire this or that, to surround ourselves with possessions and people, but the more we have, the more we stand to lose. Excessive thirst for safety and security leads us to pursue that which we don’t even require. We experience additional pain when we don’t get what we decided we want, or we want things that are bad for us. In the end, all this fear and suffering is what compels us to seek change, to seek answers, and to embark on a spiritual journey.
Yoga Sutra of Patanjali 2:14 “Consequences (fruits of action) will bring pleasure or pain, depending on whether it had good or bad intention.” TE HLADA PARITARA PHALAH PUNYAPUNYA HETUTVAT
What do we cultivate in ourselves? What impulses, cravings, and fears to we nurture? Do we nourish love or hate in our heart?
Karma bears fruit according to the type and quality of seeds planted and the care given to their growth. This sutra tells us that we reap what we sow. If actions are based on noble intentions, there will be joy no matter the consequences. If actions are based on corrupt intentions, there may be pleasure, but there will also be regret. Intention will determine the fruit of our actions, so we must be very clear with our intention, because in the end, we get what we deserve. This sutra is a call to personal responsibility that goes beyond good-doing and asks us to look deeper at the motives that compel us to act.
“Be noble minded! Our own heart, and not other men’s opinions of us, forms our true honor.” Friedrich Schiller, German playwright, poet, and philosopher (1759-1805)
Yoga Sutra 2:13 “Different roots will produce different plants and with it, different fruit; so with our choices – each one will produce its own outcome.” SATI MULE TAD VIPAKO JATYAYUR BHOGAH
Yoga practice is all about planting and cultivating the garden of your inner life, choosing the plants carefully, fertilizing and watering them.
When we neglect our inner garden, w**ds blow in on the wind. When we confuse a w**d with a good crop, we may start to tend to it as if it was a good crop, later reaping the “benefits”. We know that w**ds are w**ds because they grow much easier and more aggressively than crops, outcompeting them, as mentioned in sutra 2:7 about bad habits.
Other words in this sutra worth contemplating: karmasayah. Sayah is a womb, but we can think of it as the garden of the soul where seeds are planted. A collection of kleshas, or w**ds and their seeds (something that w**ds also do much better than good crops is seeding themselves prolifically) is the birthplace of much of our suffering.
We need to learn to become the gardeners of our consciousness, deliberately selecting, planting, and cultivating only things that bring us a good harvest. Like a good gardener, we need to learn to plan for the future, to respect the power of Nature, to study the seasons, to surrender to the conditions of the soil and the light, but, spade in hand, toil on the soil.
Yoga for the Five Elements
A new video on Liberated Yoga YouTube channel celebrating the elements of Nature with a new practice.
Yoga for the Five Elements A full length class of moderate intensity to explore the Eastern approach of finding harmony within yourself and the world around you through the five elemen...
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