January 09, 2021

Sutra 2.1: Subtle Action


Sadhana Pada: Yoga in Action (Experience the Now)
    2.1 Tapah svadhyaya ishvara-pranidhana kriya yoga
    • tapah = effort / discipline / purifying action / enthusiasm
    • svadhyaya = awareness / self-knowledge / self-study
    • ishvara-pranidhana = surrender to something more / devotion / humility / faith
      • ishvara = creative source / true self / ultimate reality
      • pranidhana = surrender / dedication / practicing presence
    • kriya = action / practical
    • yogah = yoga / union / to join together

Last year's study of Samadhi Pada (the first book/chapter/section of the Yoga Sutras) was largely about the theoretical foundation of the practice of yoga, and acted as a way to sort out and get clear on the why of the practice. As we delve into the study of the second book/chapter/section called Sadhana Pada, the focus moves from theoretical to more practical. This book is about taking action, but different than the way we may usually view action. Yogic action tends to be less about muscling and forcing our way forward and instead is a lot more subtle. Do not make the mistake, however, of believing that subtle action is less powerful than brute force.    

𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘒𝘡𝘩𝘦 . . . 𝘳𝘦𝘀𝘦π˜ͺ𝘷𝘦 . . . 𝘨π˜ͺ𝘷𝘦 𝘡𝘩𝘒𝘯𝘬𝘴
I was gifted this combination of words in a meditation I listened to last week, and they perfectly sum up the driving force behind the Sadhana Pada which gets straight to the heart of it in sutra 2.1. Patanjali starts out by telling us that yoga in action involves tapas (effort/breathing), svadhyaya (awareness/receiving) and ishvara-pranidana (surrender/giving thanks). These words may not necessarily appear outwardly like action, but if we take a closer look we'll see that they are the power behind the practice of yoga.

𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘒𝘡𝘩𝘦 . . .  
Tapas literally means fire or burning. It's about passion, motivation, discipline and all of those things that keep us moving forward when life gets difficult (like this year perhaps?) But it's in these difficulties and challenges that come up in our practice and in life, where we're given the opportunity and potential to grow stronger and expand. Breathing through challenges and stepping back, though subtle, is an incredibly powerful action to take especially in these situations.

. . .  π˜³π˜¦π˜€π˜¦π˜ͺ𝘷𝘦 . . . 
The literal meaning of svadhyaya is self knowledge. The one person who will always be with us in life is ourself, but our world often makes it difficult to genuinely get to know this person. Svadhyaya emphasizes studying, learning and coming to know who you really are through introspection, depth of experience and becoming aware of the ways of being you have consciously and unconsciously cultivated throughout life. Receiving and truly knowing the natural gifts and abilities you have come into this life with is a powerful act which allows you to become your own champion and cheerleader.

. . . 𝘨π˜ͺ𝘷𝘦 𝘡𝘩𝘒𝘯𝘬𝘴 
Ishvara-pranidhana can be translated as submission or surrender to a higher power. "Doing nothing" may sound like the opposite of action, but in those moments where the best of intentions and the most outlined efforts don't lead to where you wanted or expected to go, letting go and trusting that you may not actually know best can be one of the most difficult things to do. Giving thanks, trusting what is and realizing that you in fact do not have control is an extremely potent place to be.   

𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘒𝘡𝘩𝘦 . . . 𝘳𝘦𝘀𝘦π˜ͺ𝘷𝘦 . . . 𝘨π˜ͺ𝘷𝘦 𝘡𝘩𝘒𝘯𝘬𝘴 
THIS is yoga in action! So, let's practice it. Your challenge for this week is to embody these three words. Use them to see how they affect your physical asana and meditation practice. Use them off your mat and observe how they may change your perspective. Experiment with them and notice if you can feel their subtle power. Let them be your guides and the actions you take especially during those moments that feel difficult or when you don't know what else to do!

Sutra 2.1 Yoga in action combines effort, awareness and surrender.  

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