The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Several years ago I decided that it was about time that I read the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. I was well into my fourth decade as a yoga practitioner and somehow I’d managedto skirt any serious study of the Old Sage.

I thought that Yoga Suits Her would suit a sort of online self-study forum for me and my readers as well. Each night for 9 months I sat down at my computer and worked my way through all 196 sutra. I relied on the wise interpretations of teachers, such as by Georg Feurerstein, B.K.S. Iyengar and T.K.V. Desikachar. But more importantly, I wove in my everyday experiences to make the sutra relevant to me and others.

It was a sort of dusting off of the old text, and hopefully ‘with all due respect.’  Here they are!

A Sutra a Day: II-48 – Relaxation Lets You See Things Clearly

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Have you ever done a ten-day Vipassana course? I attended a couple of these meditation retreats, which are conducted completely in silence, in the 1980’s.
I didn’t think that the sitting/walking meditations would be challenging for me because I’d been doing yoga and therefore wouldn’t experience much bodily discomfort.
It’s true that I didn’t suffer as much as some people did from the hour-long sitting sessions. What I wasn’t expecting though was that, when the meditation room was quiet and my body was motionless, my mind would go into overdrive. […]

A Sutra a Day: II-49 The Companionable Breath

A Sutra a Day: II-49 The Companionable Breath

I’m a late bloomer when it comes to doing yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation. If you are similar to me – you like to be active both mentally and physically – it could take you awhile to settle down enough to savour the sweetness of these practices.
Until till then, you might be like an untrained puppy, bucking the leash. Perhaps avoiding the inevitable – even missing the fragrance of yoga.
This morning, at the end of my physical yoga practice, I lay down, and for some time I played with lengthening my inhalations and exhalations. […]

A Sutra a Day: II-50 – The Breath Teaches Sensitivity

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Breathing is one of those things that is just there. Or, is it? Do you always remember to breathe when you’re practising yoga?
It seems to amuse my yoga students when I ask them to breathe – not because I’m trying to be funny but because they recognise it’s so easy to suppress breathing ‘when push comes to shove’. In the effort of attaining a challenging pose, relaxed breathing gets jettisoned.
There are many theories of how to breathe for best results when doing asanas or pranayama. […]

A Sutra a Day: II-51 – You Can Be a Prana-Yogi, Too

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My friend Michael went back to Pune, India to do classes at the Ramamani Iyengar Institute a few years ago – his previous visit having been 30 years before.
My impression was that Michael was not overly enthusiastic about the classes he attended; he did, however, receive a great suggestion from one of his classmates. […]

A Sutra a Day: II-52 – In Stillness, You Discover You

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At various junctures in my life, I’ve been ‘forced’ to do more reflective practices. Illness, medical conditions, surgery, even emotional upsets have done that to me – and I have no regrets. I seem to have to learn things the hard way.
During one of these periods in my life, I discovered the healing audio recordings of Richard C. Miller. […]

A Sutra a Day: II-53 – Give the Mind Something to Do

A Sutra a Day: II-53 – Give the Mind Something to Do

 

I heard of a good reason why it’s hard for us to concentrate on breathing or to meditate. It’s because we don’t really have much experience with staying focussed on just one thing at a time.
For example, I went for a beach walk today and, at the same time, was listening through my head phones to an audiobook. As I drove to the beach, I was thinking about my shopping list. […]

A Sutra a Day: III-1 – In Focus

A Sutra a Day: III-1 – In Focus

 One of the first balancing poses a beginner in yoga is introduced to is vrshkasana (tree pose). Free-standing on one leg is certainly a challenge to a beginner’s sense of balance, and that’s a useful thing to work on. Of course your teacher will say, ‘find a focal point on the floor in front of you, so that focus will help you stay steady in the pose.’ That is concentration and it will help your stability. B.K.S. […]

A Sutra a Day: III-2 – Country Meditations

A Sutra a Day: III-2 – Country Meditations

 I adore living in the country. There are always surprises. Things that you have never seen before. Just at this moment there’s a big galah in our bird feeder which is shaped like a wire cage and way too small for the creature to get into the seed at the bottom. Nevertheless, he’s trying, and a rather funny-looking bird seems even odder with half of him in and half out. Earlier today, I walked down to our wetland which is rapidly drying out as the La Nina pattern swings to El Nino. […]

A Sutra a Day: III-3 – Yoga and Global Warming

 I’ve been watching an amazing television series called ‘Frozen Planet’, narrated by the incomparable David Attenborough. The series in the main presents stunning film of areas that are considered the last frontiers of our planet – the Arctic and Antarctica. Wildlife and marine life are shown in all the glory of their natural habitats; as inhospitable as these climes seem to us, they are where these creatures have survived for hundreds of years. […]

A Sutra a Day: III-4 – A Feel for Stillness

A Sutra a Day: III-4 – A Feel for Stillness

Are you a lover of books? I am and I have been forever, since I was a wee sprout. There’s nothing better than a novel that you can sink your teeth in on holidays or at bedtimes for winding down before sleep.
I went for many years reading every Self-help Book I could get my hands on, and some of them I actually did find helpful: Women Who Love Too Much, Addiction to Perfection, The Road Less Traveled, Owning Your Own Shadow, and many more. […]

A Sutra a Day: III-5 – Does Age Bring Wisdom?

   I have such a long way to go in my yoga practice. I’m advanced in age and if I subscribed to the traditional Indian model of ashrama — stages of life, I should have by now evolved into more of a recluse, renunciate, or ascetic. But, no, I’m still a teacher of physical yoga postures. I love this way of practicing for myself, and I enjoy passing it on to students. So, to be honest (Ch. […]

A Sutra a Day: III-6 – A Stage of Yoga – Serving

A Sutra a Day: III-6 – A Stage of Yoga – Serving

One of the reasons why I wanted to create a small community to live in was because of the opportunities living together might generate for sharing and caring.
We three couples who have created our communal home on Mitchells Island affectionately call ourselves The Shedders** because one of the couples lived in the old shed on the property as our house was being built.
Old friends for many years, we decided about 9 years ago that we would share our lives as we went into senior years and old age – for the enjoyment of each other’s company and for […]

A Sutra a Day: III-7 – Breathing is the Bridge

 A friend and colleague asked me today why I don’t teach pranayama – the yoga breathing – in my yoga classes. I should, I know I should. I was trained in a particular method of yoga that disallowed the practice of breath control until, as Patanjali advises, ‘perfection is attained in asana”. Oh goodness, what a high bar! Nevertheless, when I did yoga teacher training with my first Iyengar teacher, we students would do an hour of pranayama before each asana session. […]

A Sutra a Day: III-9 – Alert, Aware and Kind

  One of my first yoga teachers wanted his school to be called ‘Awareness Yoga’. Training peoples’ awareness to notice what they were up to, he reckoned, was what yoga was all about. He was a good teacher, but appeared to be moody and, to my mind, he wasn’t aware of how his angry moods impacted people. Publicly he was inspiring and wise, but privately he could be quite petty. I’m shocked myself at how often I go on automatic and say things that are thoughtless or my behaviour is self-serving. […]

A Sutra a Day: III-11 – Retreat to Evolve

A Sutra a Day: III-11 – Retreat to Evolve

A friend recently asked if it was a hard transition for me to move away from the city, stop full time work and live in semi-retirement.
How could it be hard; this is meant to be living The Dream, isn’t it? Peace and quiet, a beautiful natural setting, unstructured time….
However, for me to have gone from full-time employment and the cultural stimulation of Sydney to rural life and fewer income-generating opportunities has indeed involved some gears grinding.
I have no regrets, though, except for the geographic distance from friends. […]

A Sutra a Day: III-12 – Everyone Has Something

A Sutra a Day: III-12 – Everyone Has Something

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Yoga has been my stalwart companion for over 40 years. We’ve been through thick and thin together, and I have every intention of continuing the relationship as long as possible.
My overall good health I attribute to yoga practice. But, like most people, I haven’t had perfect well-being.
One of the big challenges I faced for 18 years was living with osteoarthritis. The disease was also my companion, and a teacher, too. Having had a bi-lateral hip replacements has freed me of pain, discomfort, and a restricted lifestyle. […]

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