Patanjali’s Yoga : A traditional viewpoint
Maharshi Patanjali in his masterpiece ‘Yogasutra’ described how one can use yoga to obtain maximum benefits from it. According to him, as long as a person’s behaviour is subject to environmental forces, he is prone to abnormalities. On the other hand, if his personality is guided by intrinsic motivational forces, optimum benefits can be gained and environmental forces will not be able to disturb the functioning of the individual.
Yoga helps in understanding and developing individual’s potentialities. The aim is to develop insight which will finally lead to the individual’s salvation. Through yoga, we can learn to develop greater awareness of our physical and psychological states. As a result, we are in a position to manage our thoughts, feelings and responses. Greater awareness brings sensitivity and skills to find and remove physical and psychological blockages that often keeps us away from our true selves.
Yoga gives us control of ourselves. In the words of Patanjali, ‘Yoga stills the fluctuation of mind and allows true selves to appear’. It must be stated here that yoga is not about self absorption, but it is about being in the world but not affected by the worldly distractions.
Patanjali has recommended ashtang yoga (eight measures) by which freedom from external influence and control over thoughts and emotions could be achieved. These eight process include yama(moral conduct), niyam(purity of soul and mind), aasana(right posture), pranayama(Control of prana/life/breathing), pratyahara(withdrawal of senses from external forces), dhaarna(collection or concentration of mind)), dhyana(meditation) and Samadhi(super conscious experience of oneness of soul with cosmic spirit) .
The eight-fold path suggested by patanjali is not easy to follow as it requires enormous self discipline and self control. Therefore, most of the contemporary yoga therapy programs focus on aasanas and pranayama. Along with these two, pratyahara and dhaarna are also encouraged. Dhyana, which otherwise is very important component of yoga, is not easy to attain. Therefore, it is not much stressed upon in yoga therapy in modern times. Samadhi is something which very selected few could attain.