Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
The raja yogi seeks nothing less than a complete transformation of Self into a body of light.
- Makunda Stiles
This blog post is part of our Yoga Sutras series.
Want to start at the beginning?
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Book Two
How to Practice Yoga
Happy New Year to you! I am delighted to move our Yoga Sutra studies into a brand new book (or chapter) for the new year. In 2024, we’ll be studying book two of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
This book is perhaps the most practical chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, in that it is especially suited toward the beginner who wants to know what to do to attain the goals outlined in Book One (Shoshoni, 2). Appropriately, this book is called “Sadhana Pada”, which means chapter on practices.
BKS Iyengar calls this the chapter wherein “the art of practice, abhyasa, is fully laid out.” (107) So this is the book to familiarize yourself with as you’re just getting started with yoga.
According to Krishnamacharya, each Pada was directed at a specific student Patanjali had, who characterize various types of people. Really, each Pada (you might even say, each Sutra) contains enough information to lead one to enlightenment…if only we could understand.
Our specific aptitudes and experiences give us a unique perspective. Therefore, not all wisdom will resonate with all spiritual seekers at all times. Book Two is for “the majority of yoga students, whose paths are filled with obstacles and who have impurities within them that must be removed” (Stiles, xvi-xvii) in order to achieve enlightenment.
Book One, which is the chapter on enlightenment, is quite esoteric and full of theory. Since achieving enlightenment is actually quite difficult, Patanjali gives us this chapter so that we don’t “get frightened” and instead have concrete practices we can do to “prepare [ourselves] by laying the proper foundation.” (Satchidananda, 108)
However, this is also a book for those who have been practicing for a while and have reached a spiritual plateau. BKS Iyengar mentions that Patanjali hints at this development in Book 1, Sutra 18 by describing the process whereby “hidden impressions [which] lie dormant…spring up during moments of awareness, creating fluctuations and disturbing the purity of the consciousness.” (71) Book Two is a chapter for the sadhaka (spiritual aspirant) “who has reached a certain level of development but is doubtful of his further direction.” (107)
The second book of the Yoga Sutras introduces what Patanjali calls kriyayoga or “the yoga of action” (Iyengar, 23), which has three parts that we will discuss next month. This book not only gives us the well-known eightfold path (ashtanga yoga), which describes the complete science of raja (royal) yoga. It also guides us through common pitfalls and obstacles we encounter and the methods to overcome them.
Therefore, although this chapter is seemingly about the nuts and bolts of yoga, it has the ability to raise us to the highest spiritual goal as well. This is perfectly encapsulated in our quote of the month this January.
The raja yogi seeks nothing less than a complete transformation of Self into a body of light. - Makunda Stiles
Join us this year as we mine the profound wisdom to be gleaned in Book Two of the Yoga Sutras! We wish you a year filled with the light of understanding and the joy of your practice.
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Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
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