Ashtanga Adaptability,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras For Modern Day Life: Disrespecting the Practice

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:30- The obstacles to yoga, which are distractions of the mind, are sickness, rigidity, doubt, negligence(carelessness, apathy),


Defining the Sutra

Today’s post is about apathy/negligence. For previous commentary, go here.  Carelessness is a lack of respect for the practice of yoga. When we don’t respect the practice, we can’t get the full benefit.

Modern Day Application

When we don’t respect a person, we ignore them; we belittle their efforts; we don’t listen to them; we do what we want regardless of what they are saying; and we don’t trust them or value them. This is the same thing we do when we are careless (pramada) or negligent with yoga.


Some Ways Yoga Is Carelessly Used

  • Reduce it to a two hour workout , physical therapy session, or  social gathering when it is designed to be a 24 hour way of life. Do not get me wrong. We all have to start somewhere. This is not referring to those who are new to yoga and are still swimming on the surface.  This is referring to those people who know what is under the surface but chose to ignore it because it doesn’t fit neatly into their life, the ego can’t find a pay off, or it doesn’t benefit their bank account.
  • Dismiss yogic texts, the words of  teachers (true teachers who live yoga), and proven methods because it doesn’t comfortably fit into a paradigm or there is no profit to be made from it.  Questioning our thoughts and assumptions as well as amicable debates is a part of yoga tradition.  Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga, bested many a yoga scholar and was known for his amazing intellect. It only becomes a problem when our need to invalidate the texts is based solely on our ego, we question so much that we get stuck in a state of inertia, rigidity and doubt or we have not practiced, contemplated or studied thoroughly  enough or long enough to have an understanding of the knowledge before dismissing it.
  • Reduce it to a job/business/career/source of income 
  • Reduce it to a popularity contest
  • Use it to gain power 
  • Use it to abuse students sexually or verbally
  • Use it to get a date or meet hot people
  • Change up the method to fit the ego-Yoga can be modified to accommodate the needs of all bodies and to address specific imbalances in the mind, life or energy field. The  occasional play day  is fun. However, when we habitually leave out things that are important for our development simply because we don’t like them or add things simply because we  like them, we feed the ego. The practice of yoga leads to an equanimous nature. We learn that , no matter what happens in our lives, our true being (spirit, energy, soul, consciousness) cannot be subtracted from.  This equanimous nature is the only way to be free from suffering. Suffering is different from pain. As long as you have nerve endings and feelings, there will be pain. Suffering is a response to pain and is not necessary for the experience of pain.   When we run towards pleasure (raga) and run away from what is uncomfortable (dvesha), it is impossible to get out of the cycle of suffering.

Yoga is a precious gift that can take us to rare heights. Not many people get the chance to really use it. If we mix various systems to create an eclectic pulp that suits our own limitations, rather than follow an original source, we shouldn’t be surprised if the outcome is gymnastics- Gregor Maehle, Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy



Why It is Important

Have you ever worked for or with someone that you had no respect for? Have you ever been in a relationship with someone you no longer respected? Can you remember how crappy you felt when you you had to deal with them? Do you remember how hard it was to get anything done or be motivated? Do you remember how it sucked the life out of you?  You probably eventually started to neglect the person or your work and the relationship quickly started to dissolve or lose its benefit. The same thing goes for yoga.

Without care and cultivation of your yoga practice, your relationship with it will dissolve and you will not receive the deeper benefits. You can definitely have a surface level practice and still have a hot body, good health,make money, get a brief break from your life and thoughts and enjoy the social benefits of being in a yoga community. These are all well and good but there is so much more waiting for you. One of my yoga teacher friends, Mara Healy, uses a beautiful example to describe this. She says that it is like owning a jet that  you drive down the street but you never fly. It is fun, impressive and you are moving but it was built to fly. You were built to fly. Why limit your potential or the power of yoga when there is so much more to be experienced?


Don’t Forget the giveaway for Vegetarian Comfort Foods is open until November 1 2015. Learn how to cook healthy, delicious vegetarian meals that support your yoga practice. Go here now. 


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

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