I have been honest so far. Even though, I’m making the effort to present and understand the writing of the old sage, Patanjali, I’m dog paddling here, treading water, trying to stay afloat. I’m trying to throw light on Chapter III – the higher states of yoga concentration, meditation and contemplation, but they’re just not domains I am familiar with.
It’s physical yoga – the asanas- that has been my practice and what I teach and have done for many years.
Have I been missing the boat? Has my ladder been against the wrong building?
I learned Iyengar yoga, I’ve met the Man, I’ve studied at The Institute. Although I don’t have the imprimatur, I subscribe to The Method.
So I’m going to borrow Mr. Iyengar’s words to explain how he believes it is possible to approach the higher states of yoga through the practice of asanas:
In each posture, in each action, you should be able to find yoga in its integrity according to Patanjali´s explanations.
In a fascinating article by Karl Bair on the tradition of Iyengar yoga, the author shows that:
From the standpoint of the practitioner [Iyengar] calls into question the premise that the eight-limbed path is a sequence of steps, one following the other. He rather suggests that only “put together” i.e. taken as a unity they form Yoga. Because the eight-limbed path is an indivisible whole in every partial field of it, at least potentially, the entire way of Yoga is present.
From this thought it follows that those who are serious about one of the limbs of Yoga are able to attain what Yoga as a whole is about through intelligent practise of that limb alone. This is Iyengar’s unique interpretation of the eightfold path….
[Iyengar] says in Tree of Yoga: Mahatma Gandhi did not practise all the aspects of Yoga. He only followed two of its principles – non-violence and truth, yet through these two aspects of Yoga, he mastered his own nature and gained independence for India. If a part of Yama could make Mahatma Gandhi so great, so pure, so honest and so divine, should it not be possible to take another limb of Yoga – Asana – and through it reach the highest goal of spiritual development?
Iyengar suggests that the various areas mentioned in the third chapter of the Sutras as a field for the application of Samyama are replaced by the refined practise of Asana and Pranayama, which includes the development of the other parts of the eight-limbed path.
Tasya prasantavahita samskarat
By constant and uninterrupted practice the mind can remain in a state of attention for a long time.*
*Patanjali’s Yogasutras, translation and commentary by T.K.V. Desikachar.