May theme of the month – Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
1.1 ATHA YOGANUSASANAM
This is the first yoga sutra of Patanjali’s sacred text, a must read for all yoga students who want to delve into the practice beyond the physical shapes that we make, but what does it mean? It has been translated in many ways but it means something along these lines:
Now begins the study of yoga (i.e read on and learn about how to study and practice yoga)
Now is the time for yoga (i.e yoga is needed in the world right now so let’s get on with it)
Just do it, start your yoga practice now (i.e stop thinking about it and start practicing it, you need it now)
From here in the first book of the sutras Patanjali discusses WHY we should practice yoga and in book two he goes into HOW to practice yoga. I don’t think there is any mistake in the way in which Patanjali has ordered these texts. He basically dangles the carrot of why we should practice in book one….inner peace, health, a sound mind, tools to combat all challenges, community, love, freedom and eventually enlightenment.
Shut up and take my money! yells every yogi everywhere…if that’s what is on offer then count me in.
Book two however goes into how to practice and (here’s s spoiler) there is no mention of triangle pose or chatarunga…it’s a way of being, how to live, how to treat people, meditation, pranayama and it’s a constant practice. It’s not just 75 minutes spent on a rectangular mat twice a week, it’s every minute of every day and that makes it HARD. Patanjali tells us how hard it is, he tells us we will fail and that we have to keep going, in fact he says we have to fail and start again and again and again. The repetition and commitment to the practice is the practice. And of course this is also relevant to life in general, it is hard and it requires constant effort, we will fail but can we do it gracefully and start again. Patanjali offers ways to do just that in book two.
The Yoga Sutras are the most brilliant offering to the human spirit. Su = a thread or string implying a weaving together and tra =to transcend. Thereby we can use this nuggets of ancient wisdom to get out of our own way, escape the chatter of the mind and move into a new way of being which in turn is a way to help others and our world in general. Yoga is not a seflish practice heading towards enlighenment, it’s a practice of togetherness and union. So as we learn more about the how and why we practice, we are told that it is our duty to put that to use and help others who need it and to make our world a better place to be in. As I talked about last month, yoga is action.
The Sutras reveal how Yoga yokes one’s consciousness to a spiritually liberating discipline for a complete psychological transformation and a radical change in the way we experience ourselves and rethinking our relationship to the world around us and finally rest in our own true nature. Are you in?
During May at the yoga studio our teachers will be introducing you to their favourite sutras and the meanings, hopefully some of these will resonate and inspire you and should you want to delve deeper, just ask any of us for our favourite translations for you to read at home.