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The first time I went to the Iyengar Institute in Poona, India, I was a babe in the woods in so many ways. It was my first visit to India and I can easily recreate so many emotions from that time, fear and excitement, feeling like I was from another planet and then feeling spiritually at home.
Prashant and Geeta Iyengar took the classes which had a mixture of Indian locals and foreigners from every land.
The teachers conducted the classes in English, Marathi and Hindi, and I was never sure, because they spoke so quickly, which language they’d slipped into. (Oh, of course Sanskrit was in the mix, too.)
Even when the instructions were being given in English, Geeta and Prashant had such an in-depth understanding of the postures, that much of the nuances of what they said went over my head.
Now, I get it when a newby comes to my classes and has a hard time connecting with my finely tuned directives. It takes patience and focus to hang in there and pick out the instructions that help build foundations, and trust the step-by-step process of learning something new. I get it because I’m still learning this yoga stuff, especially trying to figure out how the philosophy fits into my life.
This week in the study group I’m leading we are looking at some of Patanjali’s most important concepts – from Chapter I:12¬†abhyasavairagyabhyam tannirodhah – practice and detachment.¬†Those two words answer the questions: How do we arrive at a state of yoga? What should we do and what should we not do?
The other sutra we’ll delve into is from Chapter I-33. As it’s a very long aphorism, I’ll just give the translation here which is from Kofi Busia’s beautiful book, The Gift, The Prayer, and the Offering. This Sutra explains what sort of practice we might adopt to arrive at the state of yoga.

The mind becomes purified by cultivating friendships with contented people, by being kind and compassionate to the sad and fearful, by being indifferent to the ill-intentioned, and by being accommodating to the well-meaning.

Can you imagine a world where this was a universal practice? It’s worth trying!