According to Patanjali, whenever we are solely identified with our ego, we bind ourselves to things that do not have permanent reality.
Human beings are multidimensional and complex, and yoga reminds us that we live life simultaneously on many levels. In fact, the essential purpose of yoga is the integration of all the layers of life – environmental, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. At its core yoga means union, the union of body, mind and soul, the union of the ego and the spirit, the union of the mundane and the divine.
Throughout the centuries great yoga teachers have awakened their contemporaries to the fascinating paradox that although to the mind and senses the world is an ever-changing experience, from the perspective of spirit, the infinite diversity of forms and phenomena are simply disguises of an underlying non-changing reality.
The generally recognized founder of yoga philosophy is the legendary sage, Maharishi Patanjali, whose life is shrouded in the mists of myth and history. According to one story, his mother, Gonnika, was praying for a child to Lord Vishnu, the god who maintains the universe. Vishnu was so moved by her purity and devotion that he asked his beloved cosmic serpent, Ananta, to prepare for human incarnation. A tiny speck of Ananta’s celestial body fell into Gonnika’s upturned palms. She nurtured this cosmic seed with her love until it developed into a baby boy. She named her child Patanjali from the words, pat meaning “descended from heaven,” and anjali, the word for her praying posture. This being, whose life historians date back two centuries before the birth of Christ, elaborated the principles of yoga for the benefit of humanity.
In his classical work, the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali sets the goal of yoga as nothing short of total freedom from suffering. To fulfill this worthy intention, Patanjali elaborated the eight branches of yoga. Each of these components of yoga helps us shift our internal reference point from constricted to expanded consciousness. As we move from local to non-local awareness, our internal reference point spontaneously transforms from ego to spirit, which enables us to see the bigger picture when facing any challenge.