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Yoga Sutras for Modern Day Life: The 3 Traits of a Strong Yoga Practice

 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali  1:14:   Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and with devotion

 

Defining the Sutra:

An established yoga practice has these 3 traits:

Well attended to for a long time: 

When something is well attended to, it is not an afterthought. Think of the way most people attend to their jobs. They set the alarm to wake up at just the right time. The chose the right attire and hair styles. They educate themselves on the latest techniques for their profession. The communicate clearly to customers and  co workers. They make strategic alliances to ensure success. They perform the job well. Most people know exactly where they want to go with their career and they work towards it.

Our yoga practice is to be attended to in the same way. People easily see the benefit of attending to their career because of money is very tangible. A  yoga practice is just as important. Yoga is about silencing the mind long enough to connect with the Self thereby finding lasting happiness and peace. Who doesn’t want lasting peace and happiness in their life?

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Just like our job, the time and place should be set. We should educate ourselves on the practice. Chose the right food, bed times, and attire that will support the practice. We should communicate with our teachers and make alliances to ensure success. We should do it to the best of our ability and we should know what we are working towards.

Patanjali makes it clear that yoga is not for people that want to dabble. Success takes a long time.

Without Break:

Doing it day after day after day.

Devotion

The practitioner must be loyal to the practice

Modern Day Application

Going by this definition, how many yoga practitioner do you know? How many people do you know who have practiced day after day with devotion for a long time? Have you? In this day and age, most people practice yoga when it is convenient. There are very few people with the firmly grounded practice that true success in yoga requires. I am not talking about success in asanas. I am talking about success in consistently maintaining equanimity in mind, body and life. Successfully keeping the mind under control.

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Why Is It Important?

The mind is the toughest battle field. A very popular book in yoga, that does a great job of illustrating this, is the Bhagavad Gita. Many people take it literally but there is another way to look at it.  In the story, Arjuna, the warrior, is going up against his family, friends and  everyone he loves in battle and it is excruciating. Arjuna can be looked at as “the self” and “the family” as the “vrittis” or “mind stuff” that consumes us and keeps us from finding peace. Our thoughts, habits, stories and roles have become like family. We grow attached to them. We love them.  Even though they are causing pain, we can’t see our life without them. This family is dysfunctional. The thoughts are dysfunctional. Yoga is the practice  of ridding ourselves of these dysfunctional thoughts that keep us from seeing our highest potential

In a battle,  if you fight today but then take a few days off, it gives the other side time to advance. The same thing happens with our thoughts and bad habits. To over come them, they have to be attended to for a long time without break and with devotion.

 

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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