The Yoga Sutras were written in Sanskrit, a complex and multi-layered language, offering several layers of interpretation. In its crudest form, this sutra translates as “Now begins the authoritative instruction on Yoga”. As we reveal more sutras, it will become clear that this first sutra is in fact a summary of the other 194.
PRACTICAL LIVING Beyond that though, the word “atha” is profound: it talks about commitment. Commitment to what we are doing NOW. Are you reading this blog, watching TV, talking on skype and texting all at the same time? It talks about paying attention to what you’re about to do, to what you commit to doing, whether it’s studying the sutras, having a cup of coffee with a friend or doing the dishes…How annoying is it to be having lunch with a friend who is half engaged in your conversation and half engaged in texting? “Yoga” here refers to the link that happens when we commit to something. A relationship between you and something else occurs – between two people, between you and your work, your pet, your SELF. How committed are you to your partner, friends, family? “anusasanam” says that what counts is action! We can read and intellectually understand many beautiful concepts, but if we are not acting on them, we are not doing Yoga. Yoga is transformational because it requires action – change requires action. How much information have you acquired and how much of that have you implemented? In summary: commit – connect – act.
IN THE YOGA WORLD In Yoga, the word “atha” is powerful, it’s a blessing to a new beginning and related to commitment to several things: commitment to studying the teachings, to a guided reflection (traditionally from a Yoga teacher), to changing our habits (samskaras), to self-transformation. It’s the commitment that both the teacher and the student both make to each other. “atha” also represents the student here. The student who is humble, accepting that the guided reflection is necessary, that they are uncomfortable and want help, that these teachings have been transmitted from teacher to student for thousands of years. “atha” is a commitment to facing the discomfort, looking at it, and then making the necessary changes. Since every teacher is a student also, “atha” includes everyone studying and teaching Yoga. “yoga” then becomes the beautiful link between the student and the teacher. A link of trust, of friendliness, of growth and respect. The relationship with the right teacher helps take you from heaviness to lightness, from darkness to light. This link refers to the teachings – the profound relationship that we begin to develop with these ancient teachings. “anusasanam” then refers to the teacher. A teacher also needs the commitment: commitment to their own practice, to their own teacher, and now to the student in front of them. A teacher receives the teachings, filters them through his/her own experiences and then teaches them as is appropriate to the individual student. The sutras are filled with tools that we will explore. Tools that allow us to act.
This man, let’s call him Nate, symbolizes commitment to me. In the years I have known him, what he decides to do, he does. The 3 steps this sutra talks about: commitment – connection – action describe his life pretty accurately. He is a man who will walk across Spain rain or shine, food or no food, roof or no roof. He will change careers regardless of the hoops he has to jump or the personal challenges that arise. He will spend a day teaching a friend how to ride her bike. He will build a geodesic dome for an art festival from scratch. He will give you his undivided attention if he said he would do so. Thank you Nate for showing me the meaning of this sutra!
What are you committed to? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will define “yoga” next week!