Sutra 2.51: bahya abhyantara vishaya akshepi chaturthah
Then the breath transcends the level of consciousness. Translation and interpretation by TKV Desikachar
The fourth kind of control is to transcend the boundaries of inner and outer. Translation by Kofi Busia
When I first considered sutra 2.51, I thought to myself: which boundaries? which inner, which outer? I turned to the truth of our particle nature (that we are all made of, as Carl Sagan so poetically put it, the same star stuff) and that being made up of this same star stuff as any other organism or object in the universe, we are simply “a bag of particles acting out the laws of physics” (Brian Greene).
This is both what allows us to perceive ourselves as individuals – as having a boundary between self and other, self and universe – and as particles sharing space with other particles.
My strongest experience of this boundary-less experience has been through savasana, meditation, and daydreaming… moments of such deep relaxation in the physical body that the brain is no longer on alert but observant in an unbound way. It’s easiest to recognize when coming back to an awareness of yourself as separate.
In deep relaxation or sleep, your senses withdraw inward – your body uses its energy resources to do its daily maintenance – and you’re not consciously tuned in to sound, sight, smell, touch, or taste. Which is why waking someone from a deep sleep can take some effort. Pratyhara is this sense withdrawal and happens naturally in sleep. The yogis observed that it can happen while awake as well – through breath techniques – and send the conscious awareness inside instead of outside.
What I feel in the sensory withdrawal during deep relaxation is a feeling that my skin has gone soft or completely merged into my muscles, which have melted into my bones, which are sinking into the earth… and my awareness is everywhere and nowhere at once. When prompted to return, by a shift in my physiology or an outside voice, the first thing I usually notice is that there’s a boundary – like my skin – between where my consciousness is and where I’m trying to get back to. And slowly, bit by bit, I fill in the borders of my skin with muscles and bones and awareness of myself as three dimensional and solid and limited. Which allows me to then get up and go about my day, with both an awareness of myself as individual and part of the ever expanding (we think) universe.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.