One learns that one’s body is the bow, the asana is the arrow, and the target is the soul. – BKS Iyengar
Continuing our series on the three definitive sutras by Patanjali on asana, we turn our attention to sutra 2.47. The previous sutra (2.46) mentions that the yoga posture has or is to be sthira, stillness and stability, and sukham referring to ease, comfort, and openness (see Part 1). While there are many modern yoga texts with pictures and descriptions of yoga poses we begin to see that the Yoga Sutras is more about our relationship to reality via the mind on it’s path to realizing the soul. The three sutras on asana address the mind-body-spirit connection.
2.47 prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam
Perfection in the posture is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and attention merges with the infinite.
By relaxing the effort and fixing the mind on the infinite [ananta], asana is perfected. Ananta, a word meaning “unending” or “infinite,” describes what is timeless, beyond birth, growth, death, and all modifications—a limitless state of joy and contentment. This sweet, natural state of ours, beyond the things of the senses, is embodied by the vast mythological serpent, Ananta, whose coils support the universe and who serves as Vishnu’s couch. Vishnu rests on this great serpent couch floating in the cosmic ocean between incarnations as an avatar on earth.
Think of a hip opener like eka pada raja kapotasana, one legged royal pigeon pose:
-A considerable effort is made
-The pose is held and maintained
-We have to consciously move beyond the initial resistance from the muscles
-The resistance or “tightness” is connected to the movements in the mind, the thoughts
-We may experience a flood of mental or emotional activity
-Through our perseverance and awareness, a stillness of mind and a state of balance is attained when we witness ourselves and let go
-The hip begins to open as relaxation in the mind and body happen simultaneously
-All merges in the seat of the soul.
This feeling of oneness is boundless and universal!
Discussing asana in the philosophy class, we ask the students to begin observing the state of the mind in a pose. The deeper we get into the practice, the more aware we become of the ability to bring ourselves to a place beyond thought. We’ve all heard before “don’t think, just do!” The pose itself offers us a primordial power when we find ourselves nicely aligned in it. That energy, or shakti, awakens and begins to move freely within us. A thought can return and block this flow so we do our best to stay one-pointed and present. The more we visit this state of yoga, the more established we become in the practice for life!
Sādhanā – practice, or spiritual practice, a means to accomplish
Ekāgratā – one-pointedness, undisturbed attentiveness
Shakti – power or empowerment, the primordial cosmic energy that represents the dynamic forces that move through the entire universe
Part 3 of the Yoga Sutras and asana coming up – find out what happens when we perfect the pose…