Mastery Of Senses Through Yoga


Our last discussions on the third Chapter in The Yoga Sutras have centered around the relationships between the elements that make up all of Prakrti (Nature) and the sense perceptions that arise from those elements that ultimately lead to our engagement with the outside world. In whatever discussion we have had around this subject, I think it is easier to look at the involution (from the outside in) perspective than the evolution perspective. Much of what the third chapter deals with is esoteric for many and so starting from the tangible and making our way inward through discussion has helped. I also go back to the many charts and tables that exist in translations for clarifications.

The following is a small chart in Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Table 14: The elements and their properties) that helps me make sense of the relationship between the basic elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether and their connection with the senses. For me, it clarifies where we are headed as we strive to understand and fully align ourselves with the make-up of the entire Universe through our own individual sense perceptions.

  • Earth Element – properties of Sound, Touch, Sight, Taste, and Smell
  • Water Element – properties of Sound, Touch, Sight, and Taste
  • Fire Element – properties of Sound, Touch, and Sight
  • Air Element – properties of Sound and Touch
  • Ether Element – property of Sound alone

The more subtle the elements and the more complete our understanding, the more in control we are of their effects on our mind, body and consciousness – hence the last many sutras that expand on certain powers such as becoming small or expanding large, becoming light or heavy, hearing divine sounds, etc…

Sutra III.47 was the last sutra from the last discussion. This sutra can read in a problematic way for those of us stuck in a superficial, Instagram driven, able-biased culture – “Perfection of the body consists of beauty of form, grace, strength, compactness, and the hardness and brilliance of a diamond.” As with every other yoga sutra in this chapter, we cannot look at it through the lens of our superficial impressions and biases. What we have been taught to be “perfection in body” or definitions of “beauty” or “grace” are all dependent on our upbringing and social constructs. Yoga is meant to strip all of that away, leaving us with the essence of “beauty” and “grace”, which is divine. And, the essence of “strength” and “brilliance”, which cuts through all impressions and sees only the Truth of what is without disturbance or distraction.

As is predicted with our next yoga sutras for discussion, with this mastery of the elements and senses comes alignment with our own truth and our own True Self despite the continued working of Nature in the world around us. The following translations are from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar:

III.48 : Through samyama (integration) upon the purpose of the conjunction of the process of knowing, the ego, and nature, there is mastery over the senses.

III.49 : By mastery over the senses of perception, the yogi’s speed of body, senses and mind matches that of the soul, independent of the primary causes of nature. Unaided by consciousness, he subdues the first principle of nature.

III.50 : Only one who knows the difference between the illuminative intelligence and the seer attains supreme knowledge of all that exists and all that manifests.

We will meet again on Sunday, July 3 at 11:00am via ZOOM to discuss these Yoga Sutras. All are welcome, so SIGN UP HERE ! Below are some questions to contemplate for discussion.

  • Has yoga practice awakened or heightened any of your senses in any way?
  • Has your relationship with your body, mind, or senses changed through your practice of yoga?
  • These sutras remind us of the actual definition of yoga – to still the fluctuations of our consciousness in order to dwell in our own True Nature – have you felt that the practice of yoga might lead you toward this and in what ways?
  • Continue to contemplate that thin veil between an an illuminative intelligence and un-fluctuating pure consciousness

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.