The 6th, 7th and 8th limbs of yoga according to Patanjali are commonly translated as: Dharana - Concentration, Dhyana - Meditation, and Samadhi - Bliss or Union or Integration. I have been reading Health, Healing and Beyond by TKV Desikachar, and he translates them slightly differently.
Dharana - The ability to direct our minds.
Dhyana - The ability to develop interactions with what we seek to understand.
Samadhi - Complete integration with the object to be understood.
These translations help my understanding of the concepts, especially with Dhyana. Meditation is one of the main processes that we can use to develop interactions with what we seek to understand, but according to this translation it is the interactions, not the meditation itself that is the focus.
I have always struggled with the meaning of Meditation. What is it? Does the mind stay completely focused or release from focus? Do we meditate on an idea or object, or do we meditate on nothing? These translations lead me to believe that all of these possibilities are useful forms of meditation. These various acts of meditation allow us to interact with what we seek to understand. Sometimes it is something, sometimes nothing.
These translations also shed some light on the meaning and process of Samyama, a concept that Patanjali elaborates in the 3rd chapter of the Yoga Sutras. In my understanding Samyama is a deep integration with an object or idea, somewhere beyond the concept of Samadhi.
"I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.... Truth being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you understand that, then you will understand how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is a purely personal matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountaintop to the valley. If you would attain to the mountaintop you must pass through the valley, climb the steps, unafraid of dangerous precipices. You must climb upwards to truth... I maintain that no organization can lead man to spirituality... The moment you follow someone you cease to follow truth... I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free."
- From a speech by Krishnamurthi, excerpted from Health, Healing, and Beyond by TKV Desikachar
One small bend that wasn't there before
One breath that's a little deeper
One act of kindness that we would have neglected
One word of truth when we would have been silent
In this way, bend by bend, breath by breath, kindness by kindness, truth by truth
What we now refer to as Suryanamaskar or the Sun Salute, was called Ashtang Dand, "probably with reference to the position known in certain quarters as 'astanga namaskara,' in which eight parts of the body (feet, knees, hands, chest, and chin) touch the ground simultaneously [we now call it Chaturanga Dandasana]... It is not unreasonable to speculate that the appellation 'ashtanga yoga' may indicate the system's foundations in dands (reformulated as asana) rather than any genealogical relationship with Patanjali's eightfold yoga" (Yoga Body by Mark Singleton).
Where is the delusion when the Truth is known?
Where is the disease when the Mind is clear?
Where is death when the Breath is controlled?
Therefore, surrender to Yoga.
- T. Krishnamacharya
When we believe something to be "tradition," we don't feel compelled to analyze it thoroughly. Someone may question our beliefs or actions and we can say, "It has been done this way for thousands of years. It is traditional." As if the fact of other people doing something, no matter the popularity or time period, justifies our thoughts or actions.
The biggest problem with tradition is that it doesn't demand personal integrity from us. We should be able to explain our beliefs and actions with precision and clarity, or even the inevitable "I don't know." Invoking "tradition" is an admission that we don't know what we are doing or why without the humility or curiosity to explore further.
Our egos like structure. They don't like uncertainty, and they certainly don't like "I don't know." Tradition is comfortable in that way; it gives us security and strength in numbers without requiring effort or precision.
Suryanamaskar [Sun Salute], today fully naturalized in international yoga milieux as a presumed "traditional" technique of Indian yoga, was first conceived by a bodybuilder [Pratinidhi Pant] and then popularized by other bodybuilders, like Iyer and his followers, as a technique of bodybuilding.
From Yoga Body by Mark Singleton
Yoga is simple. That is perhaps the greatest thing about it. We don't need a fancy court or studio, we don't need uniforms, a deck of cards or even a ball. We only need our bodies and minds. And while it helps to have a large, quiet space, even that isn't necessary. Our yoga practice thrives both in spite of and because of the hectic and stressful world around us.
So this video, meant as an introduction to home practice, is in my own home. No fancy space, and the dog crawling all over me throughout. But that is part of my practice, the same way that the distractions in your life become part of your practice.
The practice of yoga works best when we can do it often, but our lives are busy. This video is only 6 minutes long and includes 4 of the most important postures. Even if you can't make it to your favorite yoga studio after work, at least take a few minutes to do these postures. Your body and mind will be better for it!
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga