1.1 Atha Yoganusasanam

One of my earliest memories of the Yoga Sutras is of reading it in a bus full of people I didn’t know well. It was in 2005, I think and the book I was reading was my first copy of Light on the Yoga Sutras. Prior to that, I had read a very esoteric book which had rearranged the sutras. As I type, I think I should check that book once again.

About 20 years since being exposed to the Yoga Sutras but it is only now that I feel a readiness, an eligibility perhaps to really study it. It took me a long while to get prepared and the journey to the ‘atha‘ has been a meandering one. As I sit with the sutras, the deeper concepts within each as opened by commentators of yore begin to find a semblance of a seat, an asana if you please. And access to a brilliant library means that I get to play with exploring even more. Sometimes I wonder why the thirst to know? I suppose the clue to that answer lies in savasana as of now. It lies in the prelude to entering the doorway of prana.

The slow route to this point had many stages, phases right from the vague attempt to memorise the sutras to reading multiple commentaries to listening to talks and thinking about what I understood at various points in time. As I’ve often mentioned on this blog and elsewhere, my favourite Sutra is 1.33 but like a draw towards the first chapter in the Bhagavad Gita, the very first sutra is also one I find myself circling very often.

‘Atha yoganusasanam
Pithy, direct with an enormous context and yet it is accessible to every kind of practitioner. Besides the Vyasa Bhashya point of view which colours a lot of the commentaries, there is a more immediate entry into the world of the sutras. Something one of the teachers had mentioned in one of the classes stayed with me. She’d mentioned that Guruji had said that there could be no discipline without freedom. And that stayed.
Freedom is both the necessary prerequisite as well as the ultimate goal. So, in a sense it mimics the whole gamut of human seeking. How can one embark upon a journey of the self without discipline and how can that inner drive come without freedom to choose a path? No amount of force or compulsion can maintain such an endeavour although it may be used to commence. Anusasanam is an exercise of free will because it is now, the only point in space and time where we have true agency. What is past is gone, what is yet to come is not quite in our control but the present is ever present. And all that one needs in the now is bringing all of our being to being.

How elegant! How relevant to every era, every individual!

March already.

In a matter of a few weeks, the institute will close for its annual summer break. This academic year has been a coming together of practices that have been a constant over the years. I think of making an entry here just in the interest of documenting a moment in time but when I consider what to note, I am at a loss. There is simply so much! 

The learning at RIMYI is a living, pulsating and organic process here. Not so much a structured textbook approach but one that is very subjective and steeped in practice and exploration. It is a good place to be, sort of like having a vast open playground and all the time in the world to play.

One of the aspects of being an apprentice is the absorption by observing, listening and actual adjustment. Another facet is the different approach to study of the asana itself in its classical form and structure. There is much which is expected to be caught rather than taught. Now that it has been a few months, the early gaucheness is no longer there. The process is one of enquiry into the principles rather than looking at everything in a prescriptive fashion and I find myself soaking in the richness of this way of seeing.

My own practice has been greatly changed to accommodate the vagaries of a changing body. Unlike earlier, when I would push through, these days it is more of a surrender and an occupying of the asana to explore within the long and supported poses. It is a gift, this phenomenon of the transition of a woman’s body in the late 40s and early 50s. I find myself curious and also more sensitive to what works and doesn’t. I suppose it is a way to learn how to slow down and savour life rather than skid through on roller skates.

In terms of textual study, I find myself in a situation quite like the one I was in when I first started exploring the texts but the difference is there is a little more familiarity with the them now. While chatting with M the other day, she pointed out that there was structure in how I explained stuff although I never saw it that way. My approach has been more of a soaking in and staying with not knowing. Without realizing it, I was getting ready to really read them. Now things strike better. And I suppose that has allowed the structure to emerge. Between 3 sets of people, I am exploring the yoga sutras, asanas, and philosophy while my independent study has the benefit of all three. At day’s end, I am glad. Many things that are not essential have automatically been crowded out by the good stuff that has taken its place, very seamlessly.