Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:28: By the practice of the limbs of Yoga, the impurities dwindle and there dawns the light of wisdom, leading to discriminative discernment.
Defining the Sutra
Healthy mind, healthy body, wisdom, and the the ability to know what is right for us on our journey. Who does not want these things? This is the promise of the 8 limbed path!
Modern Day Application
Believe it or not, the 8 limbs was designed to make the science of Yoga easier for us. The 8 limbs of Yoga is essentially “Yoga for dummies”. For the average person, they are all that is needed for success on the path of Yoga. Many people, like Sharath, Ashtanga teacher extraordinaire and Patabhi Jois’s grandson, would say that we only need to focus on 4 of them for good results. Sharath says that if we can just focus on the first 4 limbs, the other 4 limbs will happen on their own.
Why This is Important
The 8 limbs is a super sweet gift. It is the Yogi’s way of saying, “hey, that stuff in the last few verses, it got a little heady. If you missed something, here you go. This will keep it simple.” When we think that something is unattainable, we quit. It is the number one reason that people quit Yoga. The lifestyle change, the schedule or the poses just seem unattainable. They stop trying. These are the Sutras that make Yoga attainable.
In the modern Yoga world, many teachers and studios claim to be making Yoga more attainable. But at what cost? The 8 limbs makes Yoga easier to understand and attainable without cutting out what is necessary to have the promised benefits. They are the checks and balances of Yoga.
Many people like to say that Yoga is what you make of it. That Yoga is something that is defined by the individual. What is doing the defining? This is an important question. Is it the Self or is it the Ego talking? Is it your heart or is it the pain talking? Is it the shame or is it the soul talking?
The first step of Yoga is just like the first step to addiction recovery. We have to admit that we are powerless over our thoughts.
Yoga Sutras Vs 1:1 – And Now Yoga, Or, Now, the instruction of Yoga is being made.
Yoga Sutras vs 1:2-Yoga is the cessations of the fluctuations of the mind or Yoga is mind Control or Yoga is the restraint of the mental modifications.
Yoga Sutras Vs 1:3- After Yoga, you know yourself or the Seer abides in his own nature.
Yoga Sutras Vs 1:4- Until then, you think you are your thoughts or At other times, the Self appears to assume the forms of the mental modifications.
In a nutshell, or for dummies if you will, the first four verses of the Yoga Sutras says, “You have tried other things and you still cannot control your thoughts. You don’t know who you are. You get confused all the time about what to do with your life. Now, it is time to get on the path of Yoga. The path of Yoga will clear all this up for you.”
Saying that you can just make Yoga what you want is like a drug addict making up their own treatment plan using the same thoughts and staying in the same situations that got them on the drugs in the first place.
The 8 limbs are the checks and balances. They bring the results promised by Patanjali.
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.