Yoga Sutras: An Introduction to The Ancient Scriptures that Define Yoga Today

Editor´s Note: The writer of this article is a certified yoga practitioner and has used the philosophy of this science to imbibe it within her way of life. With her experiences derived from this and the treasures of wisdom she has received from her mother- a renowned yoga guru with over 20 years of practice from India, Fuerteventura Times is humbled to bring you the Yoga Sutras- Series- An in-depth learning of Yoga as a way of life, thought and action.

Yoga is the practice where you not only exercise your mind and body but become more aware of your feelings and your emotions. It is a bridge that connects you to the deepest parts of your consciousness and gets you in sync with your own decisions.

One such sage founded the main principles of yoga over two thousand years back. Patañjali was an Indian sage who has authored many Sanskrit works during the 2nd and 4th centuries. The greatest of these works are the Yoga Sutras, a classical yoga text which was compiled between 500 BCE and 200 BCE, where Patanjali synthesized and organized knowledge about yoga from much older traditions.

The Yoga Sutra, widely regarded as the authoritative text on yoga, is a collection of aphorisms or sutras, outlining the eight limbs of yoga. These sutras or “threads” of wisdom offer guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life.

The Yoga Sutras contain 196 Sutras, divided between four chapters, discussing the aims and practice of yoga, the development of yogic powers, and finally, liberation. His famous definition of yoga is “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah”, which means “yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind”. Chitta is mind, vrittis are thought impulses, nirodah is removal. The distractions are Ignorance, I-ness, desire, aversion, and attachment. (Yoga Sutras, II, 3)I-ness is the merging, as it were, of the power of knowledge with the instruments thereof. (Yoga Sutras, II, 6)

The first sutra is called Atha Yoganusasanam. Pandit Tigunait, Ph.D. & Spiritual Head of The Himalayan Institute- a non-profit international organization dedicated to serving humanity through educational, spiritual, and humanitarian service-, translates the first sutra as “now begins the instruction on the practice of Yoga.” It also means bringing discipline to your mind and body now. The word atha means now, which is an interesting first word to start a text that is all about meditation. Atha also means an auspicious beginning. It explains Now is the moment, you centralize yourself, your well being and your focus inwards so you can handle and conquer the outer world. 

During this period of lockdowns and coronavirus global overwhelm, health experts are advising people to resort to the practice of yoga to fight anxiety and all the looming feelings we have been feeling, while also predicting a possible rise in post-traumatic stress after the world is declared coronavirus free. The period of quarantine and self-isolation has garnered the feelings of loneliness and at the same time a lot of self-reflection. Patanjali gave a term to isolation in the fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutra which we will be discussing in the consecutive weeks. Kaivalya meaning “solitude” or “detachment” in Sanskrit. In this case, it refers to the isolation of man from the ego, and therefore the liberation from rebirth and freedom from suffering.

We needn’t shy away from loneliness or merely witness it, like the breath in meditation. Instead, we can dive right into the center of that pain and meet the question that loneliness begs of us. And ask:

Dear Self, What is it that you truly long for? What is it that you desire? What are the feelings that reside within you, yet unexpressed?

Identify how they make you feel, then act upon what feels the best, without any discomfort in your acceptance of it. Loneliness can be held by practicing stillness. Like any yoga postures, when you breathe into the tight stiff parts of your body, you release it into a better position than you found it earlier. The same goes for loneliness.

You succumb to the reality that you are never truly alone, but deeply connected by this astounding connection of Life and living. What we try to achieve from Yoga is the control over our mind, to quiet it, still it, nourish it, water it, and let it flourish to the concentration of our own being. Freeing yourself is mostly getting rid of what you think you know. Moment by moment. Breath by breath.

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