Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras For Modern Life: Find Time for What You Love

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:39-Freedom from wanting(Aparigraha) unlocks the real purpose of existence.

Defining the Sutra

When we are not greedy, we begin to understand why we are here and in some cases, have access to information about past and future.

Modern Day Application

We can only pay attention to what we are focused on.  If we are focused on acquiring and hanging on to material things, we cannot focus on anything else. When we stop being greedy and hoarding the things of this world, we can take our awareness to the bigger questions like, “what am I?” With an open hand that allows things to come and go, we get to experience more than we would with a closed fist that is holding on to one thing.

The second part of this is having access to information about past and future. I have been privileged to know people who have information about things that seem impossible to know.  Because of this, this does not seem far fetched.

When you study ancient cultures, many of them had knowledge of the universe and atoms that seemingly can only be proven with powerful modern day scientific equipment.  The Yoga Sutras, which was codified around 400 CE talks about sub atomic particles. How do they know this? There have been many ancient prophecies that have come true in modern times. Is it a fluke? I think not. Even if it was an educated guess, having the ability to guess in such an awesome amazing way is still a super power in my book.

Time is an illusion. That is not a trite saying. Ask Dr. Google. You will find articles by the leading minds and scientists that state that time is not real.  So if time is not real and everything is energy, It is not far fetched that someone could develop the capacity to tune into frequencies that defy common concepts of time.  The Yoga Sutras tell us that if we are not grasping for common things and experiences, it opens us up to more uncommon experiences.


Why This Is Important

The Yoga Sutras are very clear that we have to be careful to pick objects of focus that are satvic/pure (Yoga Sutra 1:39) Why? Our life revolves around what we focus on. The Sutras is also clear that we need to surrender the fruits of our focus. Why? When we hold too tightly nothing else can come in.  According to the Sutras, the better you get at focusing, the more subtle the object of focus can be.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali  1:40- Gradually, one’s mastery in concentration extends from the primal atom to the greatest magnitude.

The Yogi, because he is interested in knowing who and what he is, is naturally going to take their focus to the nature of existence.

However, if we spend our days acquiring fame, money, cars  and clothes, we do not have time to focus on the nature of existence.  If we spend our days trying to hang on to the things we have acquired, we do not have time to ponder the nature of existence. Apraigraha gives us the time and freedom to focus on bigger things.

Aparigraha is a critical component to the practice of Yoga. Clinging to experiences like staying up late, bad diet, excessive alcohol use and toxic relationships with people who don’t support our practice,  keep us from getting up in the morning.  Acquiring poses that are not appropriate for us, causes injury, stress and animosity towards the practice and our teachers.  Clinging to the idea of the Yoga body takes our focus off the the internal limbs of Yoga. Hoarding positive Yoga experiences can cause us to avoid poses  that are uncomfortable and that are necessary for growth.  Needing our practice to feel good all the time can cause us to suppress negative emotions that need to come to the light.

Non attachment is a hard pill for modern practitioners to swallow. The question arises,”Without our attachments, who are we? What is there to live for? What would my life look like?  I have not met my goals yet! Do I have to let go of those?” Aparigraha allows us to slowly peal back the layers of attachment. By letting go of greed and hoarding, we let go of the attachments that don’t mean much to us and can focus on the ones that do. A mother may let go of her job and live with less to spend more time with her kids. A Yogi may sacrifice a few hours of sleep to have more time for practice in the morning. This gives us the strength for even bigger acts of freedom that lead to more space.

The mother allows the children to cultivate their own interests which gives her time to find her own.  Through daily practice, the Yogi finds ease in his practice which frees his mind to be more meditative. Through Aparigraha, a determined person eventually gains the space to connect deeply with themselves.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

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