I am so excited! As a busy Yoga teacher, running from class to class, trying to stay informed of what is going on in the Yoga world, trying to build my business and enhance the business of others, the Yoga Sutras get pushed off to the back burner in my teaching and practice. Thankfully, one of my wonderful classes, Wednesday mornings at Harbor Fitness in Bay Ridge, has voted to spend time going over at least the Sutras in the first book (Pada) as part of our meditation practice.
However, before we explore the first Sutra, we must discuss the Introduction. I am currently using two translations, Light in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from B.K.S. Iyengar and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from Swami Satchidananda. Although the Sutras (the threads) are pretty much the same, how they are interpreted differs. Much like any other major philosophical book, who translates, who interprets will give a little spin of their own. This is particularly evident in the forwards and introductions of these different editions. Both authors came from different experiences with the Sutras, and that shapes their way of explaining them. Ultimately, however, they strive to say the same thing. The journey through the path of Yoga starts with very little, grows with knowledge and experience, and then ends with even “less” than with what you started. The feeling of completeness, wholeness comes from the release of all- the cessation of the monkey-mind, the realization that “things” will only give us short-term pleasure (at best) and that in the end, the feeling of integration of the eight limbs (of Yoga) is what gives us bliss (Samadhi).
The first Sutra- which I will introduce only in English- is:
With prayers and blessings, now begins the exposition of the sacred art of Yoga. – BKS Iyengar’s translation
Now the exposition of Yoga is being made. – Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation
For me, I think of the seated moments at the beginning of class, the pause to collect one’s thoughts, the attention drawn to the breathing all done before we say the three “Om’s”- these are, in a sense, the prayers and blessings before we begin the movement part of the practice. However, I think it is value to underscore that in Sri Satchidananda’s forward, he highlights that Yoga is ALL inclusive. That no one is turned away from Yoga. Although Iyengar speaks of “sacred art” I believe both authors would agree that Yoga is indeed, a science.
Finally- in classes this week, with this first Sutra in mind- the image of each student coming to their practice, their mat, with their own container. That container filled with the pieces of their own puzzle. Each puzzle, part water, part bone, part thought, part emotion, and perhaps many other pieces to be laid out on the mat. The practice helps us to look at these pieces, see where they may fit together. Perhaps by the time practice is over, the puzzle is more put together than when you arrived to the practice… and if not- perhaps, there is acceptance that the puzzle can be looked at again. The container is always welcomed back to the mat.