The Beginning of the Beginning
I love the Yoga Sutras. They’re my constant companion. They straighten out my thinking and make me reflect on all the things I do and say – they’ve helped me make sense of this world and my place in it. My mission with this blog is to clarify them, to shine light on their teachings from my experience, and hopefully to help you, to refine your practice or to discover the many joys that live behind the Asana.
Even if you’ve never sat down on a yoga mat you’re probably pretty familiar with downward dog. But what’s the real purpose of this and the other Asanas? Just, why did the ancient yogis tie themselves in knots? Surprising though it may be, it wasn’t so they’d get the perfect set of abs.
Yoga means many things and means one. Yoga is a search for the truth. The goal of yoga is for each of us to become reunited with our true self – a goal sometimes translated as enlightenment. Its about slowing our mind down so that we can tune in to our inner voice.
The first compendium of Yogic thought, the Yoga Sutras, devotes a grand total of three sentences to Asana. So, whilst it’s an important tool in the yogic hardware store it is only one of a suite of tools that we can use to help us to reach the goal of yoga.
The Yoga Sutras is a concise collection of truths about the human condition and how we can transcend it: how can we realise our true potential? Its a philosophy text because it outlines the nature of reality and existence and, it’s a psychology text because it outlines the human mind and how it functions. What’s more it achieves all this in 196 short sentences.
This brief treatise contains the complete theory of yoga, but the emphasis is always about each of us learning to practice and interpret the wisdom within it. Not only does it tell us about the world and the nature of the human mind it gives us techniques so that we can experience what it talks about. Yoga is, above all, practical.
The Yoga Sutras provide us a road map; its up to us to choose the route. It teaches us to observe our thoughts, to listen to the stories we tell about our lives and reflect upon how these affect our beliefs and actions. In other words; how does our idea of the world affect our experience of it?
We all create our own world. We interpret what happens to us through our own eyes, nobody else’s. Yoga helps to deconstruct the personal story we’ve created and shows us the limitations we’ve placed upon ourselves. It gives us techniques we can use that steer us back to a truer path.