4.1 – One may be born with mystical abilities or acquire them through the use of herbs, mantras, disciplined spiritual training, or samadhi.

जन्मौषधिमन्त्रतपः समाधिजाः सिद्धयः ॥१॥

janma osadhi mantra tapah samadhi jah siddhyayah

  • janma – birth; rebirth; existence
  • osadhi – herbs
  • mantra – a sacred sound; incantation
  • tapah – self-discipline; heat; fire; warmth; austerity
  • samadhi – unity consciousness; union of subject and object; bringing together; deep absorption
  • jah – born
  • siddhyayah – perfection; powers; attainments

Yoga practice increases our shakti (power). As we train, our powers of concentration become more developed and shine forth in our daily lives. Our primary focus is to direct those powers inward to enhance our spiritual growth. But we can also use them to achieve our constructive goals.

Students will find it easier to study and absorb information. Business owners will spot growth opportunities they would have missed before. In general, we become more put-together, more in control of our thoughts, emotions, and senses, and therefore more successful in whatever we pursue.

Siddhis—spiritual attainments, psychic powers, or mystical abilities—can emerge at any point in our development. Patanjali gives us several examples of how they might arise.

  • We may be born with them, as our inner work in previous lives carries into this one.
  • We may develop siddhis through the recitation of mantras (japa). Japa absorbs the mind in sound vibrations. Those vibrations purify and alter our consciousness, unfolding various spiritual powers.
  • We could acquire siddhis through the wise use of herbs. A sattvic lifestyle, which includes pure foods and herbal preparations, strengthens the body and increases our vitality (ojas). When we’re healthy and energized, the Power of Awareness flows through us with less resistance.
  • Siddhis could emerge through disciplined spiritual training (tapas). As seen in the first three chapters, intensive yoga practice leads to spiritual growth. Part of that growth process involves the uncoiling of potent energies.
  • Through samadhi. In chapter 3, we learned how concentration, meditation, and samadhi practiced together (samyama) on various objects of meditation could give rise to soul powers.

Rather than striving to attain siddhis, we should allow them to blossom spontaneously. To prevent them from becoming an obstacle to samadhi (see Sutra 3.38), we should use them to serve the divine will and direct them toward our liberation.

Throughout this final chapter of the Yoga Sutras, we’ll explore the process of liberation (kaivalya) in more depth.