Do the Yoga Sutras Inspire How We Practice and Teach Yoga?
The Yoga Sutras is an ancient book outlining the practice of yoga. It shares with us the basis of how yoga has been practiced throughout history. Some people may claim that the Sutras have little to do with how we practice and teach yoga in today’s world where we focus primarily on the body. I beg to differ. Without even realizing it most of us are utilizing the wisdom and practices taught in the Yoga Sutras. Studying this book brings conscious awareness to how we choose to live our lives. That awareness empowers us to be more embodied on this path of health, wellness, and illumination!
How does it inspire how we practice?
We all know how good we feel when we are getting on our yoga mats or meditating regularly and consistently. That is YS 1.14. It says: “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long period of time, without breaks and with your whole heart.” Does it mean that if we miss a couple weeks or even a couple years of practice that we won’t get anything out of it? Nope. It simply has more power the longer and more consistently it is practiced. So get back on that horse and pick up where you left off.
Have you ever rushed into your yoga class stressed and still thinking about your day? I think most of us can say a whole hearted “Yes.” to answer that question. And how did you feel after your class? Better. The body is refreshed and the mind is much more clear. Without knowing it you activated YS 1.2: “Yoga is calming the chitter chatter of the mind.” The asana practice does a great job of getting you out of your head into your body, thus calming your mind.
We all have those poses that are challenging for us. Mine right now would have to be Boat Pose or Navasana. Honestly, I haven’t been very dedicated to abdominal toners since my second child was born -- 5 years ago. In the past, I definitely would have said things in my mind like “Crap. This pose again!” “I can’t do that pose!” “How much longer do we have to be here?!” “I hate this teacher for making me do it!” Can you relate?
Maybe your teacher has even asked you to bring thoughts like this to the surface on purpose. What did she likely suggest after all that negative energy surfaced in the mind? A reframe. To replace negative thoughts with good ones. “Yes, this pose is challenging and you can get through it. Breathe.” This is YS 2.33-34. The sutras call it Pratipakṣa Bhāvana.
In that class with all the boat poses that I didn’t really want to do, I just had to smile and chuckle because the alternative thought processes didn’t suit me. I chose my light instead of my dark. I didn’t repress anything, I redirected my focus. I chose instead of letting my mind run wild and out of control. This practice trains the mind to see when it is filled with negative thoughts and to replace them with the opposite.
While the Yoga Sutras may not teach you how to do a better Boat Pose it does connect your mind to your body through mindfulness. Our yoga practice, no matter what it looks like is way more than just the body participating. How our minds and spirits interact with our practice is where the Sutras shine brilliantly.
How does it inspire how we teach?
Some of the best teachers out there are those that weave wisdom into their physical practices. It doesn’t matter if it is a chill out restorative class, kick your butt vinyasa or something in between. When the teacher can get you through the poses while linking the wisdom teachings of yoga to your life they are rockstar teachers!
One of the places a skilled yoga teacher often looks for inspiration is the Yoga Sutras. Think back to classes you have taken. Have you ever heard the teacher speak about:
- Being in the present moment (YS 1.1)
- Calming the mind (YS 1.2)
- Letting your light shine through (YS 1.3)
- Practicing kindness towards yourself or others (YS 2.35)
- Letting go (YS 2.39)
- Finding peace and contentment (YS 2.42)
- Surrendering (YS 2.45)
- Finding ease in your postures (YS 2.47)
- Focusing on the breath (YS 2.49 & 50)
- Calming your senses (YS 2.54)
These are just a few of the nuggets of wisdom we access, teach and practice while on our mats. Magnificently we can then take those same lessons from our yoga practice and live them out in the world.
That is how we become better humans through the practice of yoga. Sri Aurobindo said it so simply, “All life is yoga.”
Now it is your turn
If you are interested in learning more about yourself, your yoga and living a life with ease and abundance, leave a message below or sign up for the email list. We are beginning a Yoga Sutras Study Group and would love to have you join our sanga. In our study group we will learn how to apply these ancient wisdom teachings to our modern lives. You can join no matter where you live. We meet twice a month via Zoom. If you miss a session you can always catch up with the recording!
Reading the book is a start. To feel the power and presence of these teachings in our lives we must learn how to live and practice what is contained within. Learn in community and share your stories to help us all learn and grow. Click the photo below to sign up!
May your light shine bright! See you on the inside,