Know Thyself


As we look a little deeper into the 27th sutra of the second chapter of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is helpful to again state that this journey is not a simple one nor one that can be achieved by mere intellectual understanding. Each of these “stages of wisdom” occur by practice, experience, and complete alert awareness.

During this time where our outer world is forced to be more compact, it can be perfect time to look closer at one’s Self. In reality, at this time there is no other choice. We are in close proximity with those who live in the same home, which can bring to the surface a myriad of our own mental and emotional reactions. Or, we are truly and physically alone, so the only one we may have to interact with fully is our own Self.

“The first stage is where we come to the conclusion that by running here and there, by looking to externals, we are not going to gain the knowledge we seek.” Translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Yes, we could continue to look at our phones and televisions and get caught up in the chaos of the outside world, but that is not “wisdom”. Staying informed is one thing, but as the above quote suggests, the only important and most useful knowledge we seek comes from within.

BKS Iyengar takes on this sutra from a few different angles and from a few different historical commentators. The first stage of wisdom is described in the following ways:

  1. “The knowable is known” (Vyasa)
  2. “Right desire” (Yoga Vasista)
  3. “Knowledge of the body” (BKS Iyengar)
  4. “Integration of the body” (BKS Iyengar)

Once we know that the outer world does not hold the truths and answers that we seek, this realization plants the “right desire” to turn our attentions and awareness inward to our Self. With that desire we must first gain all knowledge and integration of the practical outer layer of our individual Self, the layer of the physical body (annamayakosa).

Staying at home might already have brought up a lot of understanding of your physical space in the world. What do you really need? What makes you comfortable or uncomfortable? What is truly necessary and what is not? How can you as an individual be the best to yourself and those closest to you? How do you feel without the ability to go beyond your own space into distraction?

Just beginning to ask yourself questions like this will lead you into the first stage of wisdom.

“After long searches here and there, in temples and in churches, in earths and in heavens, at last you come back, completing the circle from where you started, to your own soul …” Swami Vivekananda

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Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.