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By: Sandhyanath

How can our Yoga Practice bring about change and transformation? The beginning of the fourth chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras gives us some key insights into how we can grow into successful positive changes:

जात्यन्तरपरिणामः प्रकृत्यापूरात् | २ |
Jātyantara pariṇāmaḥ Prakṛtyāpūrāt IV:2
“Transformation happens by the inflow of Nature.”

The key here is that we do not make the change itself, but rather just create for the conditions where Nature (or perhaps Natural Order) will bring about those changes Herself. This is made even more clear in the subsequent Sutra:

 निमित्तमप्रयोजकं प्रकृतीनां वरणभेदस्तु ततः क्षेत्रिकवत् || ३ ||
Nimittam aprayojakaṃ Prakṛtīnāṃ varaṇabhedas tu tataḥ kṣetrikavat IV:3

“Actions do not directly cause changes, they merely remove obstacles like a farmer who breaks down the barriers that allow water to flow into his field.”

We do not need to try to directly “change” anything in our lives with our Spiritual Practice. The practice instead is like a farmer removing the barriers to allow water to flow into his field. It will break down the barriers within us that have prevented the full expression of our own shining innate Nature.

In Vyasa’s commentary, he points out that a farmer does not try to push water with his hands into the field, he just digs away at the edge of a body of water at a higher elevation than his field and the water naturally flows into the field. He also gives the example that a farmer cannot make the water go into the roots of his plants, but he can remove the weeds that surround the plants and then the plants will naturally take up the water.

What are these barriers? The second chapter of the Yoga Sutras refers to them as Kleśas or obstructions that can exist in more overt or more subtle ways in our thought patterns and energetic body. They are Avidya (Ignorance), Asmitā (Ego), Rāga (Attachment, Desire), Dveṣa (Aversion), and Abhiniveśa (Fear of Death, Clinging to Life).

This is equally true for the physical practice of Yogāsana. It is the removal of tensions that allows both for the full extension of tight muscles and also the flow of life force for the correct engagement of those muscles. Patanjali calls this “prayatna śaithilya” or the “relaxation of effort” which he says is key to the perfection of āsana.

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