Diving into the Yoga Sutras by Melissa Perehudoff

June 13, 2018

You may have heard of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. You may be aware that this is the codification of the original teachings of Yoga by the ancient sage Patanjali. This original description of Yoga is thousands of years old and has been interpreted by hundreds of Sanskrit scholars and Yoga philosophers. Sutra means thread in Sanskrit and refers to the strands of the teachings of Yoga. Of the 196 yoga sutras, only 3 speak directly to asana or the physical postures of yoga. Yoga was originally prescribed for the mind and Ayurvedic medicine for the body. The sutras, presented in four chapters or padas cover all aspects of life and are an indepth study of the human psyche, giving us a method to gain mastery over the mind and emotions. 2018 marks my fourth visit to the Big Island of Hawaii in March and my fourth visit to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in July. These two very different cultures resonate deeply in my heart and radiate through my life with increased awareness. 

Sutra 1.2 Yogah cittavrtti nirodhah is translated by BKS Iyengar as Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness. If you have spent any time doing yoga, meditation or studying your mind then you understand why people call it the “monkey mind” or “chattering chipmunk”. The mind rarely stops and can include every type of thought process and reaction or vrtti. Yoga psychology has a very specific definition of consciousness or citta and sees it made up of three factors of mind (manas), intellect (buddhi) and ego (ahamkara). Citta, which literally means “to collect” can be imaged as the lens of our psyche or individual consciousness. The analogy is that everything you observe, experience and collect information about from the outside world clouds the lens of consciousness. Yogah which is defined as union or integration of the self from the skin to the soul polishes the lens of consciousness by stilling or restraining (nirodhah) the movements. This stillness may flow into silence and a profound experience of the radiant beauty within and all around us.

This thought takes me back to Hawaii.  I know I experience stillness and a sense of profound beauty while snorkelling in Hawaii. The touch of the warm water on my skin gives me a sense of fluidness and being at home. My sense of hearing is fully aware of the silence in the ocean and my eyes are wide open to the colours, shapes, textures and sea life. It seems that my thought waves cease momentarily as I embody this sense of being. My personal experience is that my consciousness is not fluctuating but pulsating with a continual high vibration of beauty and joy. And I think that is a reflection of my true Self. You may have had a glimpse of this stillness of consciousness in yoga class, even for a brief moment. After all the effort to follow the instructions, be in the pose and stay with the breath, you may have had a glimpse of the perfection of your being or a sense of peace or calm or radiance. Or maybe you experienced a taste of this nectar at the end of class in Savasana.  Stay with the practice. The possibilities are infinite. I will hopefully have more to share when I return from RIMYI.


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