The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is an ancient text of 196 sutras (short aphoristic statements) which is dated around 400b.c. and gives the practices of the philosophical system of yoga; it is basically the root of this practice. A lot of people studied, translated, commented on this great text and it continues to be in the foreground till today after all these years. Patanjali with this text gives us the instructions and the techniques to reach Samhadi (liberation), which is the goal of yoga and yoga practitioners should know where this practice leads to.
But what is yoga really? Is it philosophy, psychology, religion? Yoga is an ancient map for an internal personal exploration of the state of our mind, it is about what is real and what is the goal of the human existence. It is a deep dive inside the good old question “what is the meaning of life?” The Yoga Sutras is a book that is designed to be applied in the modern era, and reading it & understanding by inspired yogis and others in my opinion is necessary. I love philosophy, I also read somewhere that it is therapeutic for logical people and I totally agree with that.
Yoga will happen if philosophy enters your life, on and off the mat, standing on your hands is not enough.
The Yoga Sutras begin with the phrase: “Atha Yoga Anuśāsanam” – “अथ योगानुशासनम्”
Atha – now
Υοga – union, from the root yuj meaning to join or to integrate
Anu – within or following a tradition
Shasanam – discipline, training, instruction, practice
“Now the Teachings of Yoga Begin.” This sutra as simple as it seems it contains great power, the whole teaching is contained in only one small phrase. All the misery and sadness that people have comes from thinking about events that happened in the past, or from fear, expectation and anxiety about what will come in the future. Take sometime to think about it and to realise how much truth is hidden in this, how many times something tragic that happens now, or something that causes us sadness is in this exact moment.
If we could simply be in the Now, maybe we wouldn’t need anything else.
Patanjali here invites us to truly listen, with our mind and our heart devoted, because if our mind runs in thoughts and we are not absolutely concentrated on what we do right now it is not possible to understand what he is trying to explain, not completely that is. Whatever you have experienced till today it was just a preparation to reach this point open and ready. So give it the proper attention it requires! Isn’t this also true in all the aspects of our life?
Very often we are so concentrated on the goal that we miss the journey, as well as the importance of the process, the details and ultimately we fail only because we made a mistake, because we were in a rush to reach the goal we missed something out. Because our mind was not in the Now and the evaluation of the moment, but instead it was at the result. When the final goal becomes an obsession, instead of coming closer, we fall into the the trap of attachment that keeps us away of what we want, and during our physical practice this usually means an injury.
Or at our relationships, with our partner, our children, our friends. How much quality time we give to them, with our whole existence, our mind and our heart being truly there? So do you think that maybe the problem begins from us? Have you ever observed a baby? They burst into tears because they are sad and after 5 minutes they start laughing so hard like nothing has happened before. Children are in now, that’s where Patanjali invites us to go.
In our practice we work methodically to be able to be in the Now. With the help of our breath, by observing it, with our mind concentrated in every inhale and every exhale, while listening to the sound of the Ujay (victorious breath) that assists with our concentration, the thoughts are getting quiet and our mind becomes clear. This is one of the reasons that when our practice is over we feel happy and relaxed. As your practice gets deeper you are able to come to this moment more easily. To disconnect. So your concentration must be fixed at the breath and not to the pose, if you concentrate on the result you will see that you won’t be able to do the pose, if your mind relaxes magically the pose becomes possible. This is one of the most helpful tools-gifts that you can take from your practice and you can use it off your mat as well.
When you experience a difficult period in your life the meaning of Now becomes an amazing tool. Try for a moment with your hands placed on your heart and your awareness on your breath to close your eyes and come back to the moment. You can also repeat inside you the sutra as a mantra. You will realise that maybe you don’t feel so bad anymore.
Have you ever seen a landscape of amazing beauty that takes your breath away, so much that you can’t think of anything else… It is the exact same feeling… Imagine that you can enter this state any time you want. All we have is the Now. Tomorrow you don’t know what is coming and you can’t change yesterday… Now is the time to start!
Have a good practice!