Now, the instruction of Yoga. Yoga is the calming…of movements…in the field (of consciousness…). Then, the lingering of the seer in its own nature.
Yoga Sutra of Patanjali
As translated by Shelli Carpenter
The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali are the oldest known collection of writings specifically about yoga. They are the foundation of our modern yoga practice. The Yoga Sutra were written in 200-400 CE. They are attributed to a teacher called Patanjali. The Yoga Sutra are special because they were not written for people living in monasteries. Rather, they were compiled for common householders living in the Indus Valley region.
Now, the instruction of Yoga.
Now is the only time that truly exists. We tend to imagine time in a linear fashion from past to future. Upon closer inspection, there are flaws in this logic. Afterall, time is not a place we can go to. Time is a concept and despite the tremendous amount of importance it holds for us humans, it doesn’t actually exist.
Albert Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Like so many human-made tools, the fact that time is not “real” does not negate its value. Time is a reference point we use to determine our place.
Humans need place. We are physical beings operating in a physical universe. The fact that the physical universe and constructs such as time used to navigate it are not ultimate reality is not something most of us find particularly relevant in our day-to-day lives. Yet, it is something we must be aware of as yoga practitioners because if past and future are illusions, Now is where we study and access Yoga.
In the second sutra, Patanjali defines Yoga. It can be helpful to think of yoga with a little “y” and yoga with a big “Y”. Yoga with a little “y” refers to yoga practices: asana, pranayama, meditation, etc. Yogic practices are the things we do to experience Yoga with a big “Y”.
Patanjali says that Yoga with a big “Y” is the calming of the fluctuations of consciousness. We are often preoccupied with thinking. There is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking. Our brains were made for thinking and they do their job quite well! However, we become so caught up in our thinking that we mistake our thoughts, as well as concepts like time and the physical universe, as ultimate reality. In other words, when we think we are “thinking”, we are actually not thinking at all…. None of our thoughts are real!
Now is the where our human timeline intersects with timelessness. Thus, Yoga can only be accessed Now.
Then, the lingering of the seer in its own nature.
Who would you be if you were not thinking? What would you be if you had no past, no future, and Now was all that existed? Yoga is not only an experience we have when our minds are quiet. It is ultimately that which we actually are.
When the fluctuations of the mind are still and we are fully in the Now, all that we used to define who and what we thought we were falls away. Yoga is all that is, including that which we think of as us. Thus, Yoga is what we are. Yoga is our true nature.
Suggestions for practice: Experiencing Yoga.
- Find your bliss.
Your bliss is that which you most love to do. It could be art, music, gardening, playing sports…. What activity do you lose yourself in? Your bliss will be something that challenges you just enough that you participate fully in the moment at hand without becoming frustrated by the task. Time disappears. You are completely absorbed in the here and, well, Now. Bliss, or Samadhi, is itself a yoga practice. This state of timelessness, complete presence, and creative flow is Yoga.
- Get to know your astrology.
Astrology is a psycho-spiritual practice that grants us access to greater self-knowledge through the study of the planets and the archetypes they represent. When we consider something like our astrological birth chart -in essence, a snap-shot of the planet’s placement at our time of birth- we cultivate an awareness of how these archetypes live and express through us. When we are aware of how the planetary archetypes play themselves out in our decision-making, we step into the role of the Witness. We are the observer of archetypal patterns and are afforded greater choice in how we live them. When we realize we have a choice in how to best utilize our planetary archetypes, we realize they must not be what we actually are. Indeed, we are That which witnesses and chooses how to express them!
- Daily Sadhana.
Sadhana is our daily spiritual practice. According to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, a yoga practice is something we do every day with our full devotion and enthusiasm. In essence, our daily Sadhana reminds us of our innate connection to the Numinous. Our daily Sadhana may include practicing asana, yoga postures, but not necessarily. It may also include pranayama (breathing practices), meditation, or studying sacred texts. Our daily Sadhana may include none of these things and something entirely different! Patanjali says whatever it is that reminds us of our connection to Source, do that, and do it often!