We stay with Patanjali’s Sutras, where 1.5 and 1.6 introduce five types of fluctuations of the mind. But we are focused just on the first of these this week. Sutra 1.7 discusses correct knowledge. To me, it feels as though this touches upon intuition, that sense of knowing to your core something to be true. The Sutra details the types of proof that support correct knowledge. But ultimately it is up to us to discern and decide and like so many things, it is a skill that we can develop if we pay attention to it and nurture it.
Iyengar’s Light on the Sutras of Patanjali has some interesting comments on this Sutra, and the progression from discernment to true inner wisdom. He explains how our asana and wider yoga practice help to cultivate this ability. So in classes, students are asked to listen for their inner wisdom in their practice and to heed it: to know when they have more available within an asana, and when they have reached their edge, or need to pull back a bit. So a fair few challenges to help them hone their skills! Well done to all the students last night. And Happy Easter!
Patanjali’s Sutra 1.4 reminds us that at times (perhaps most times) we are caught up with the activities of the mind- our thoughts, feelings, what is happening around us. We lose that sense of stillness that enables us to cut through all the noise around us and connect with what is real, with what matters. The light of our true selves is dimmed when we turn away from it.
Yoga gives us many strategies to turn toward our own inner light for nourishment and enlightenment. And as mentioned last week, our yoga practice helps hone our skills in focusing the mind.
This week we explore Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha deep in our core: how to deploy them in a flowing way, engaging them subtly sometimes and more fully at other times, aware of taking what we need, when we need it, and letting it go when it is no longer required. We observe how being attentive within can enhance the outer expression of our asana work, silencing the distraction of its details. Instead, we feel how the essence of a pose is nourished from deep within us, we learn to trust ourselves to find and use that resource wisely, and when it all connects it is a true wonder- for us and those around us.
Patanjali’s second sutra 1.2, mentioned last week, explains that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. Sutra 1.3 goes on to let us know why we want to achieve this. Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam: Then, the seer becomes established in his / her own true nature. So we move toward stillness in order to grasp what is real, and we move away from what is mere distraction. Our still mind is a pre-requisite to self-realisation.
For those interested, https://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-sutra-1-3-translation-and-commentary provides audio of these sutras so you can hear them spoken, as well as interesting commentary.
Students are reminded in class that all aspects of our yoga practice- asana, breath work, cultivating the ability to observe ourselves during our practice, to maintain a sense of equanimity throughout- has the goal of enabling the mind to become one pointed, to see things clearly for what they are without the subjective mind, the ego, intruding and distracting us from what is real.
Monday’s class contained some challenging sequences that gave ample opportunity for the ego to distract us from the sense of the mind just observing and witnessing, of being quiet and still. So we learn from it, we become more aware of when the subjective mind starts leaping in, and we guide ourselves away from it sooner next time, or perhaps the time after that. It’s all part of the process, all good stuff.
One blustery day I was attending a yoga class and feeling quite keyed up and distracted. At the start of class, the teacher commented that there was a sense of restlessness in the room, perhaps because of the windy weather. She abandoned her class plan and we began with more energetic work to dispel this frenetic energy. It worked a treat.
Recently I have had that sense of my mind jumping about, and a feeling of being scattered...and we have had windy weather. Coincidence or not, it reminds me that my yoga practice is the antidote. But the funny thing is, it has been difficult to discipline myself to take the cure. Excuses abound.
In Monday’s class, toward the end, as people settled for Savasana, I remembered I had not introduced the theme as I usually do at the start. So I briefly did so then. Following on from Sutra 1.1 last week is 1.2, the definition of yoga: Yoga citta vriti nirodahah. Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction, without distraction. And yes, I did see the irony in it! I got onto my mat the next morning and afterward felt a sense of being calm and refreshed. Scattered energy successfully distilled, like magic!
Signs of spring are appearing all around us. There are certain times of year that seem to give us the impetus to make changes in our lives, to renew ourselves, to be resolute. Spring can be one of these times, with so much energy and life bursting through around us. The days grow longer and we seem to have more vitality. So it is a great time to renew our yoga practice, to bring to it the energy of spring, to take our awareness to the sense of lengthening, opening, and expanding that is made possible by well nourished energy sources and firmly grounded roots.
This week in classes, we explore asanas to open the front and back body, including shoulder mobility work to create space to move into. Expanding the thoracic and shoulder blade area is explored both passively and dynamically. And we draw awareness to the power provided by firm foundations, out of which we can more fully lengthen and grow.
This sense of renewal that spring brings reminds me of the first of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras- atha yoganusasanam: now begins the teachings of yoga. For me, this is a reminder to constantly keep my interest and awareness in the present moment when I am on my mat to enable me to keep learning and developing and not just going through the motions: so each breath is a new beginning. More challenging is embodying this when I step off the mat! But I will keep trying, as each breath is a new opportunity. Happy Springtime!
Ruth teaches yoga in Cheltenham UK, weaving yoga philosophy into the asana practice to help students connect yoga on the mat to their lives off the mat.