Monday, January 7, 2008

Real Philosophy: The Yoga Sutras

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are an ancient, foundational text of Yoga. Countless translations are available to study, including one by my teacher Baba Hari Dass.

I've also found an incredibly in-depth website that can really blow your mind if you get into it:

Though brief, the Yoga Sutras are an enormously influential work on yoga philosophy and practice, just as relevant today as when first composed. But how can text from approximately 2200 years ago be relevant to today? How can Yoga students today find applicable teachings in a text written more than two millenia ago? Let's begin at the beginning...

The first Sutra: Atha yoga anushasanam (Sutra 1.1)
This can be simply translated as: Now begins the study of Yoga.
A simple introduction to what we are about to study and practice - Yoga.

The second Sutra: Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah. (Sutra 1.2)
Translation: Yoga (union) is the cessation of the thought waves in the field of consciousness.

Translation into Real Life. Real Yoga. verbiage:
Yoga (union) happens when you turn off your iTV, imac, iphone, ipod, and anything else that starts with i and/or has a battery or plug, find a quiet spot, breathe deeply, and attempt to calm those crazy stories running around in your head. Yoga is when you stop moving and stand still - even for just a moment or
two...that quiet second or even millisecond when thoughts cease, plans stop being made, conversations stop being played over again to try to figure out why "she got so mad", and you just relax into silence and stillness - relax into the present moment - relax into relaxation. It was probably easier in Patanjali's time with no technologically advanced products to keep him preoccupied from dawn to dusk to dawn again. But we have an advantage in this day and age: it's so easy to see the busyness and noisiness and constant movement in today's world, that we don't have to try too hard to find the opposite - turn it all off and listen to your own breath - you may be amazed!

Sure, there are many types of Yoga practice...Hatha Yoga (physical postures), Kirtan (devotional singing), Karma Yoga (selfless service), Jnana Yoga (Yoga through knowledge), and on and on...however, the type of Yoga referred to above (stillness, silence, etc) is the tip of the iceberg. A great place to start - or return to if you've lost your center. Anyone can be quiet for a moment, right? Anyone can find stillness for a moment, right? Anyone can let their thoughts dissolve into the silence around them, right? If you're not so sure, you could always find out for yourself, right?

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