When I began writing the “Yoga Suits Her” blog a few years ago, I chose the title because I liked the play on words, not because I intended studying Patanjali’s Sutra.
But, son of a gun, that’s where I’ve ended up. That wily Old Sage has reeled me in, and it’s been a good thing too. Patanjali recommends in Sutra II-44 self-study of the sacred texts, and here I am finally doing it – after 41 years involvement with yoga. Just call me a late-bloomer.
The Sutra were written at a time and for a culture that emphasised the sacred. Our Western culture is secular; sacredness that doesn’t fit with organised religion is often rejected. Where do Patanjali’s notions of God and divinity fit in for us?
What we modern yogis have ended up doing is interpreting svadhyaya - self-study – as literally exploring the self: figuring out what our minds are up to, feeling what’s going on in our bodies, examining what’s going on for us emotionally.
Bija Bennett in Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind offers a template for this sort of self-study:
- Start by accurately assessing your present situation and condition. If you know where you are, you’ll know where you’re going. Start the day and your practice by taking a few minutes to recognise the place where you are in the moment. Each day will be different because you will be different.
- Determine your direction and clarify what steps you need to take in order to get where you are going.
- Reflect and meditate on the effects of your experiences. In your practice, notice if it makes you feel different – stronger, happier, or more stable – and adjust your subsequent actions accordingly.
- Begin to integrate your experiences into the whole of your life. Work with yourself on-goingly: inquiring, testing, studying and rediscovering.
Whether this way is what Patanjali intended for us, the approach has validity. It has us revealing ourselves to ourselves which is a path to wisdom.
Union with the chosen divinity comes from the study of self through sacred texts.*
*The Essence of Yoga – Reflections on the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali by Bernard Bouanchaud.