Now, the teachings of yoga begin.
It might be a bit weird to have already written hundreds of articles, to start this now. But then again, if you are here for the first time, this might be the first blog here you are reading.
I love doing these series as it’s a great reflection for me upon my own yoga practice and what I’m (still!) learning from it.
This Sutra is the very first in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali and probably one of the most important ones. It’s just so powerful in its simplicity!
I’d really like to add that this is my interpretation of this sutra. There are many translations and as many interpretations of this sutra around. You might find something in mine, or you don’t. That’s all fine. I’ve read many articles before writing this myself to do a bit of a double-check. And many I resonated with, but many I also didn’t as they came from a different point of view. Pick those that resonate with you and enjoy what you are reading!
I’d really like to highlight this word before we dig deeper into the entire sutra. It’s such a small word to use, but it is full of meaning for those entering (or already in) their yoga practice. This word simply means “now”.
The atha, in this yoga sutra solely refers to the fact that there is nothing else but the present moment. And that every time you step onto your mat (or out of your bed, your door, just anywhere) you should be in the present moment.
This is what yoga is based on. To make sure that you are in the here and now. By practising you can reflect on that and see what happens when your thoughts begin to wander too much. To moment you step into the story of the ego or the mind, is the moment you walk out of the here and now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having these thoughts are a mistake or anything. But getting into these is preventing you from being in the moment of yoga (union).
I always compare it a bit to walking and saying every single step of the way: Now, Now, Now. On the way, you can look at things and reflect on them, but the moment you take another step, you are experiencing another moment. Every single moment is a new one, with you having the choice to be in the present moment.
the teachings of yoga
Many people translate the sutra “atha yoga anushasanam” into “now the teachings of yoga begin”. And it’s probably the most correct interpretation as well. However, I’ve seen a couple of times the next one too: “And now, yoga begins.” Somehow the latter just felt better to me.
This is because it’s simple and clear: Now union begins.
This really gives more of the impression that you don’t really have to achieve anything. Patanjali probably didn’t mean it this way, but when we talk about the teachings of yoga, it almost sounds that something should be learned. While, how can you learn something that is actually already present within you?
Again, not blaming Patanjali here.
It’s merely another way to look at this sutra. And even, in my opinion, to make it a bit more powerful. It’s not just about the physical part of yoga, or the philosophical part separately. It’s about both and even more. It’s about what and how to live your life so you can benefit fully from your natural state (the state of union).
This state we can see as Samadhi.
Of course, the teachings of yoga, physical and philosophical are truly necessary in order to remember that state of samadhi. And even though it’s not something to achieve, but already within you, it’s maybe still a bit necessary for us to walk the path of yoga to be reminded of this state of bliss.
And to end this article, let’s take a closer look into the union bit. I’d like to finish with something that I’ve read in another article. Here they talk about the fact that union can’t be achieved in a violent way. Therefore, make sure that whenever you see this sutra “atha yoga anushasanam” you also don’t take the teachings too literally and that you don’t swing one way or another. Not having a steady practice (whichever this practice may be, yoga, meditation, Satsang, and so on) won’t get you deep enough. Going too deep and even hurting yourself will only drive you further away from union.