By Ali Archard
Hello Prana Therapies Yogis!
If you practiced with me for our first yoga class last week, I introduced us to Patanjali’s first yoga sutra, ‘Atha Yoga Anushasanam’ - Sutra 1.1.
The yoga sutras are a collection of verses written thousands of years ago, and the tradition of yoga as we know it has stemmed largely from them, (and has since changed a lot in the western world!). I’ll delve into this a little deeper, to allow you to get an insight into what yoga is about, and why anyone and everyone can practice it.
We can translate this sutra to mean, ‘now, the teachings of yoga begin’.
Patanjali is telling us that now we have arrived, everything that has happened in our lives has been and gone, and we have now arrived at a point in our lives that we are ready for the practice of yoga. At the time of writing (about 2,500 years ago) yoga was nothing like we know it today. There were supposedly only eight asana (the poses that we make with our body), and the practice was predominately seated. When one practiced ‘yoga’ it was a practice of devotion, of self-inquiry, and meditation. There were no vinyasa flow or yin classes! The word ‘yoga’ stems partly from the Sanrkit root word ‘yuj’ - meaning to ‘yoke’ or to join. We are joining the parts of ourselves into one, our mind and our body, our sun and moon, our consciousness and unconsciousness. You can see already that the focus is largely an internal one, a practice of what is going on in our minds, rather than what we are doing with our body.
I started our first class together by sharing this sutra because we have a wonderful opportunity to begin a journey that is quite often a solitary practice, as a part of a community. Even though yoga is something that one does on their own, by being a part of a class environment there is something special that happens. Breathing together, moving together, and sharing space together facilitates an unspoken connection. You might be able to feel a little glow when you wander out of class (this is the yoga magic!).
If you haven’t practiced before, or if you don’t think yoga is ‘your kind of thing’, I invite you to let go of some of the preconceived ideas that you might have, and begin your yoga journey wherever you’re at. It doesn’t matter how flexible you are, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the right outfit or if you don’t have the right mat. The practice of yoga meets you wherever you are, it gives you whatever you need. If that’s lying down on your mat and spending half the class in a child’s pose then wonderful! That is you listening to what you need and giving yourself just that.
The most important thing that I believe in a yoga practice, is that you are connected to and mindful of your breath. It doesn’t matter what poses you can or can’t do. They are just shapes that we make with our body, from standing on our heads to balancing on one leg, none of it matters if you have lost the awareness of your breath. It is our breath that supports us, nurtures us and keeps us living in this body we inhabit. With this focus, we continue to arrive, moment by moment, turning inwards and welcoming whatever it is that we find.
Have a great month everyone, we'll see you on the mat!