Yoga Sutras Dealing with Asana: Sutra 2.48

We will wrap up our philosophy discussions for the year this week as we turn to the third and final of three sutras dealing with asana (posture), Sutra 2.48. If there is sufficient interest come the Fall, we will take up a book entitled Bringing Yoga to Life by Donna Farhi. It is a well written book on applying yoga principles to our day to day life, and many of you might enjoy reading it over the summer.

Turning to Sutra 2.48:

tatah dvandvah anabhighatah

tatah: from that, then
dvandvah: dualities, opposities
anabhigahatah: cessation of disturbance

From then on, the sadhaka (practitioner) is undisturbed by dualities

The effect of asana is to put an end to the dualities or differentiation between the body and mind, mind and soul. None of the pairs of opposites can exist for the sadhaka (practitioner) who is one with the body, mind and soul. When body, mind and soul unite in perfect posture, the sadhaka is in a state of beatitude. In that exalted position, the mind, which is at the root of dualistic perception, loses its identity and ceases to disturb him. Unity is achieved between body and mind and mind and soul. There is no longer joy or sorrow, heat or cold, honour or dishonor, pain or pleasure. This is perfection in action and freedom in consciousness. (B.K.S. Iyengar)

Hariharananda notes that upon mastering asana, a state of calmness is experienced in the body, which allows for a detachment from the body’s sensations such as hunger and thirst. In other words, the purpose and perfection of asana indicated by Patanjali are when one loses all awareness of the body and, consequently, its sensations. It is is a preliminary ingredient in a far larger undertaking (Bryant).

Perfection in asana means relaxation of effort and absorption in the infinite. All “efforts” are expressions of ego, so the relaxation of effort weakens the ego. Also, the ego defines itself by its limits (“This is me and that is not me”). In concentration on the infinite, the ego can’t find any boundaries and thus becomes dormant. So, when the mediative posture (asana) is perfected, the ego doesn’t identify with any of the physical and mental pairs of opposites. (Baba Hari Dass)

Effortlessness instills a unique sense of freedom. As we relax, awareness begins to differentiate between the willed contractions of wanting and aversion, on the one hand, and the spontaneous, unwilled movements of energy that form the backdrop of being. Most of our active moments are learned, conditioned behaviors along well-worn neuromuscular routes, adapted for the specific purpose of grasping at the pleasant or pushing away the unpleasant. Stillness is a reflection of our growing openness to the unpredictable unfolding of the world as it is, a freedom from the constant effort to bend things to our liking, to make them conform to our conditioned notions of good and bad. This can extend far beyond the sitting cushion. Our growing familiarity with subtle internal experiences helps us to recognize the ways our bodymind contracts in the presence of hurt, delay, and other features of daily life. We begin to catch ourselves earlier in the process of tightening, viselike, around difficulty, disagreement, or frustration. We can then relax, noting how this embodies the intention to know the moment more clearly and openly. Nor is it ever wrong to do so, we begin to sense. Loosening the valves seems always to allow things to resolve and wisdom to enter. This imparts both the freedom to act and the freedom not to have to. (Hartranft)