Welcoming some new students recently, it seemed timely to bring the theme back to the Yoga Sutras. Sutra 1.2 defines yoga as stilling the fluctuations of the mind, and then moving onto Sutras 1.12-1.14 we consider the qualities of a firmly grounded practice: well attended to, for a long time, without break, in all earnestness. (From Sri Swami Satchidananda translation and commentary). But what is practice? Practice is our efforts toward steadiness of mind (Sutra 1.13). No mention of asana. So how does this feature?
Our asana practice can be one tool to transform unhelpful life patterns into the qualities described above. So the HOW we practice becomes more important than the what. We learn to be fully present and committed to what is happening during this breath, and then the next. The demands of the asana practice help to retain our focus and concentration and can help to rebalance our nervous system so we are in a better place to work at establishing the qualities of a firmly grounded practice.
We can then realise that our yoga practice is embedding this shift in the qualities of our awareness to whatever moment we now find ourselves in. Taking these lessons off the mat and into our daily encounters and routine tasks is where the “firmly grounded” practice really gets challenging! So our yoga classes and shared community can provide a vital boost and encouragement to keep at it, a time to reflect, laugh a little at ourselves, and renew our commitment- one breath at a time!
Ruth is a yoga therapist and yoga teacher based in Cheltenham, UK. She emphasises yoga as a tool for well-being, for individuals and in her classes, in person or via zoom.