This post is part of a series of reflections on the Yoga Sutras, an ancient yogic text that is the basis of much of our modern day yoga. For a general introduction to the Yoga Sutras see: The Yoga Sutras: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life.
Yoga Sutra 1:1
Atha yoga anushasanam
“Now, we begin the study of yoga.”
Let’s parse this out a little bit:
- “Now we begin”
We begin where we are today. Each day is different. We show up to practice with a different set of thoughts and emotions each time. Our bodies sometimes feels energetic, sometimes they have aches and pains. Yoga practice will most likely change the energy in our body in one way or another. Can we stay present and notice this?
We practice each time like it is the first time, even if we know the poses and the breathing and the teacher. This way we can maybe open up to experiencing something new.
We try to bring our minds into “now.” This means recognizing when our minds are drawn off into stories of the past or future. This means gently using tools to refocus our minds on the now. Yoga offers lots of tools to bring our minds into the present moment. For example, we can notice our breath, or focus on sensation in our bodies.
- “The study of yoga”:
Yoga is a study. It takes practice and effort. We can make that practice and effort joyful.
It is a guided self-study of the mind, body, and spirit
Unlike other types of study, it is not a study where there are right or wrong answers. There is no test or evaluation at the end of it. Everybody’s study will look different.
Seeing that it is a study, we know that we are never finished, we will always be learning.
Consistent practice will bring results, such as a little more space to think clearly, a little bit more breath awareness, a little bit more ease in a pose. However, we try to practice and study without expectation of any particular outcome or results.
The great thing about yoga is that there are always surprises when the practice is consistent- things we could think or do that we never thought we could. When we are open and practice freely, we can often exceed our own expectations, our own self-imposed limitations.
Yoga Sutra 1:1 Now we begin the study of yoga.