The Sutras as Guidance

Yoga Sutras

2020 has been a tricky year. That is putting it mildly. Between COVID-19 and politics this year in the US there was much chaos, division, and anger not to mention off-the-charts conspiracy theories running in real-time media and social media. It was difficult to keep my nose out of that realm of looking and listening in the beginning but my ultimate choice was to abandon any news media that was out and out bias or telling lies …and then eventually abandon all news media and indulgences in social media for a time altogether. 

The Eight Limbs of Yoga Sutras which is a central philosophical text in Yoga and my personal guidebook written by Patanjali is a collection of 195 sutras. The sutras are a set of instructions to help shape the life into a disciplined and purposeful life, of which asanas or the physical postures form only one limb in the tree. 

To be clear the Sutras in my early years acted only as a hovering guidebook to my practice but was kind of like background noise. I am now 40% finished with my 200 Hour YTT and am using those philosophies with much more vigor. Now practicing Yoga has brought me to a better place of both clarity and resilience. If I am to teach Yoga in the near COVID-19 free future it will be because I am able to embrace all of Yoga and be a practitioner of Yoga on and off the mat

As I reflect on this past year I can truly say that my training couldn’t have come at a better time. Now, because of the COVID-19 circumstances,  I do have the luxury of studying with the time to practice and reflect on that practice in ways I do not believe I could have before. The work for me this past past year was to move out of the territory of political divide and try and move forward into a more compassionate state. I can tell you that I am still working on this through meditation, ritual, and of course humor. 

I have focused on the following Sutra for guidance:

“Infusing the mind with friendliness, compassion, cheerfulness, and uninvolved observation in relation to those living a happy, miserable, virtuous, and non-virtuous life respectively, results in reclaiming a pristine state of mind.” ~Yoga Sutra 1.33 Recitation

Additionally Added -“We should have compassion. If you can lend a helping hand, do it. If you can share half of your loaf, share it.” ~ Swami Satchidananda

Self-preservation of mind in these times requires quite the opposite of what is routinely seen in the media. It requires friendliness, compassion for others, a cheerfulness or high spirit, and an uninvolved observation of persons in all states of existence in this life. Uninvolved does not mean unkind, uncaring, or not lending a hand…it simply means not to take on the other person's attitudes nor should their attitudes affect you. (hello difficult!!) We know there are situations where simply staying away from someone belittling or pugnacious is a good choice but that is not what is meant here. In times like these, it is essential to feel uplifted internally from our own practice and our own inner being. Lend a hand whenever and wherever we can to do good in the world. The stated Sutra infuses messages from the Yamas and Niyamas with a sprinkle of Pratyahara and Dharana for good measure.

The following are the Eight Limbs of Yoga in the Sutras to be practiced on and off the mat: 

  • Yamas = How we interact with the world around us + ethical guides
  • Niyamas = How we interact with ourselves or Personal observances 
  • Asana = Yoga poses - The physical embodiment of yoga practice
  • Pranayama = Breathwork & Life force-extension
  • Pratyahara = The withdrawal of senses (includes media)
  • Dharana = Concentration (Not on a TV)
  • Dhyana = Meditation
  • Samadhi = Enlightenment

While many believe you have to go through each of these phases as individual practices it is more likely that while practicing Yoga you will see a glimpse of all of the 8 limbs daily. It is also likely that you will spend much more time in the practice of Asana and Pranayama. The more time you spend in one limb the more the other limbs show up. The more you practice Yoga for example the more likely it is that you would not steal, lie, or put another sentient being in harm's way. The more you feel flexible in your mind and breath the more flexibility you will have physically. This becomes clear when practicing Yoga Asana and Pranayama. Success becomes your own and not anyone else’s expectations of you. Your being is your own. So, in this second phase during the cold winter months and with all of the possibilities of being quarantined Yoga and the Sutras can be invaluable guidance moving ahead with a light friendly, and warm heart. 

Yep, While  I'm a practitioner and practicing with vigor I move toward 2021 with open arms without any feelings of dismay.



Happy Holiday Season!
Mary Rhodomoyer @ The Yama Yoga Store


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