Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Get Up and Practice Yoga or Sleep In?

I opened my eyes and stared at my clock. It said 4:30AM. Time to get up and get ready to go to Yoga. 

Than the story started.

“You’ve worked hard this week. You deserve to sleep in.”

“You had a headache yesterday. You should rest today.”

“Why are you doing this? This is stupid!”

“What if this is all just B.S?”

Then I thought.

The definition of Yoga, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind” or as Pattabhi Jois says it, “Yoga is mind control.”

Getting up early and getting to the mat is the first step in mind control. This is my first chance to make the choice to let my thoughts control me or me control my thoughts. This one action can set my pattern, intention and purpose for the whole day.

How do I want my day to go? Do I want to spend it giving into to every whim and thought? Do I want to spend it uncontrollably giving up my power and falling prey to the negativity around me? Do I want to mentally sleep through all the rough patches in my day or do I want to take action?

What if the act of getting up in the morning and getting to the mat was all that was needed to finally gain control of our minds?

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:1, says that, ” the Yoga of action consists of disciplined action (tapas), self study(svadyaya) and surrender (isvara pranidhana)”.  Getting up in the morning and practicing is a supreme act of discipline, self study and surrender.  

For something to be classified as tapas, it has to be an act that is not easy. Getting up early and practicing is not easy.  Svadyaya is the study of books and teachings of spirituality and also the recitation of what is studied.  The act of reciting Yoga Sutra 1:2 and the teaching of Pattabhi Jois on mind control, when I did not want to get up, is a form of Svadyaya.  I could also have taken my mind to the voice of my teachers telling the importance of daily practice.  Surrendering to these teachings is Isvara pranidhana. 

The first verse, in the second book of the Yoga Sutras which is the book on practice, tells us to do these three things. How many times are we neglecting this very first step of a Yoga practice?

This one act covers 3 of the 5 duties and observances of a Yogi aka the Niyamas.

In Ashtanga, it is believed that if we can do the first 4 limbs, the next 4 are automatic.  This is where it starts.

At 4:50AM, I got up.

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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