January 25, 2020

Sutra Sunday

"Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory" - Pattabhi Jois

I've been practicing yoga asana since 2005. Like many people in the west, I approached it as an additional way to get and stay physically fit. As I practised longer and more, I began to notice some interesting things. I stood taller, I breathed deeper and I felt more comfortable in my own skin. When I started teaching yoga, I found my practice deepened. I learned more about the power of the breath, I took my practice on the mat out into the "real" world, and . . . . did I "sparkle" just a little bit more? Currently, partly by circumstance and partly by choice, my yoga practice is mainly self-focused and self-reflective. I've always been interested in the energetics of yoga (focusing specifically on the chakra system), but I've recently been introduced to a translation of the Yoga Sutras that has made me want to delve into the philosophy a little deeper. Maybe it's the right time for me to consciously incorporate that 1%.

A book that is required reading for most yoga teacher trainings is the Yoga Sutras. There is controversy and differing opinions (isn't there always in these matters) about the Yoga Sutras, but for the most part this text is considered a foundation of yoga. There are more differing ideas in regards to when it was written and even who it was written by, but a widespread story is that it is about 2,500 years old and written by Patanjali. The Yoga Sutras isn't a holy book that contains doctrine. It's viewed more as a guidebook or roadmap for a journey of self discovery and ultimately happiness. There are 196 sutras or aphorisms divided into 4 sections in this text, and a few important things to note about these adages are:

  • They are vague. They are written in Sanskrit and each Sanskrit word has various different meanings, so different people can and will interpret a sutra in different ways. 
  • Reading and studying each sutra requires us to be proactive which means some of the interpretations or even some of the sutras themselves will resonate with us and some won't. We get to sort through the different perspectives and allow a meaning that resonates for us to emerge.
  •  Each sutra can be meditated on, interacted with and brought to life. The sutras will touch each person differently, can reveal new things with every reading and may stand out for us at different times or points in our path. Yoga IS a lifelong practice!      

The first section (or pada) of the yoga sutras is called "Samadhi Pada" I love how Alan Finger dubs this section as the "Yoga of Being in the Now" This first section of the sutras is devoted to introducing the big picture view of yoga such as what yoga is, what the point of practice is and obstacles that may be encountered along the way.

So the very fist sutra in the text says:
    1.1 Atha yoganusasanam
    • Ata = in the now, in this exact moment in time
    • yoga = the practice
    • anusasanam = imparting of teaching
So . . . one interpretation for sutra 1.1 is NOW, in this moment, the practice/study of yoga begins. 

At heart, I'm an explorer, so I've decided to take a journey through the yoga sutras. These "Sunday Sutras" may focus on one sutra or a few (I haven't quite decided yet), but it's my opportunity to focus my practice, to experiment with different interpretations and to share my discoveries. Know that what I incorporate and present is what calls to me in my life at this particular point in time. I'm also a teacher at heart, and though I am not an expert in this area, a part of teaching involves sharing our experiences which allows us to delve deeper into a subject. Feel free to follow along, post questions or comments, or go on your own parallel journey (same same, but different!) I so look forward to sharing this space with you!

NOW . . .  . let's begin yoga!  

Sutra 1.1 The practice of yoga begins now

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