Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:35-Also the development of super sensory perception can aid in concentrating the mind
Defining the Sutra
The is the first mention of yogi super powers. I bet your yoga teacher never talks to you about this. Like the bodiless ones, discussed in Sutra 1:19, and Ishvara, a reoccurring theme in the Sutras, the super powers make people a tad bit uncomfortable. Relax. Think about it this way. When someone experiences the lose of one of their senses like sight or hearing, they start to heavily rely on their other senses and this strengthens the remaining senses. Something similar happens in evolution. In order to survive, organisms adapt. These adaptations, to past generations, would look like super powers.
This verse of the Yoga Sutras is saying that, if a yogi focuses for a long time on one of their senses, that they can develop super sensory perception in that area. This keeps the mind focused, builds concentration and can serve as a sign that the yoga is working.
Modern Day Implications
The idea of a yoga superstar has changed a lot. Stopping your heart like Krishnamacharya is out and doing handstands on the beach is in. Neither of these feats are the point of yoga, they are symptoms of it. Yogi Sri Swami Satchidananda, gives this warning,
If that experience comes, it is proof that you have made the mind one pointed. It will give you confidence. But in itself, it will not help you to reach the goal. Its just a test, that’s all. Don’t make concentrating on the nose and getting nice smells your goal.
The side effects of yoga are amazing. There is nothing wrong in celebrating the years of work that culminated in binding in Marichyasana or having fun transitioning in an out of poses through handstand (not in the Mysore room or in Mysore). The dedication, focus, strength and perseverance that it took to achieve your pose or super power are important tools on the path of yoga. However, the super powers, the fancy poses, and the hot bodies are not the purpose.
Why It is Important
Just like many dieters constantly weight themselves to ensure their diets are working, the yogis knew that people would want a sign that their yoga was working. Super sensory perception is an indicator that the yogi’s powers of concentration are strong. It is the same way that proficiency in Primary Series, which is the purifying and therapeutic sequence, is a sign that physical body is healthy. Proficiency in Second Series, the nervous system cleansing sequence, is a sign that the nervous system is balanced. In Ashtanga Yoga, when the body is healthy and the nervous system is balanced, it is an indicator that a student can safely learn pranayama techniques that include breath retentions.
Indicators give the monkey mind something to grab onto to stay focused on the goal of yoga…which is okay. Eventually, faith will be enough.