Teaching Ashtanga,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras For Modern Life: Don’t Take It Personal

Yoga Sutra 1:37: By practicing non attachment, the mind gets stabilized and tranquil.


Defining the Sutra:

This is a continuation of the list of actions Patanjali recommends for helping the yogi stay on the yogic path. There are two general interpretations of this verse. I chose this one because, when I looked at the verse in Sanskirt, it was missing some of the words often included in one of the interpretations. I am certainly aware that there are other texts commentators use to guide in the understanding of  the Yoga Sutras. I have not read those yet so I can’t really comment on that interpretation. So I went with the straight forward translation. If you are interested in the second way this verse is translated, go here.


Non-attachment can be said in many different ways:

“Don’t take it personal”

“Dont take it home with you”

“You own it but don’t let it own you”

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34


By practicing non attachment, drama stays low and peace stays high.


Modern Day Application

Many have taken  non attachment to mean disengagement from life. Unfortunately, this erroneous definition causes many aspirants to focus only on the asana part of yoga because they  are not ready to give up their jobs, house, cars, dreams, and loved ones. Fortunately, you don’t have have to. On the contrary, because a yogi does not take things personally, they can be even more engaged in life. The yogi understands that the light within is always lit but it sometimes gets overshadowed by past pains and hurt causing a person to act out. They never take the action for the person. A yogi can enjoy owning beautiful things without being defined by them. They understand that the things that are happening to them is all a part of the great play of life and who they are inside cannot be created or destroyed by circumstances.

Even if we ourselves have not gotten to this place, contemplating and practicing non attachment , even if we feel like we are failing miserably, can help us find a stable and tranquil mind.


Why It is Important

The first part of any therapy is admitting that you have a problem. The next step is admitting that this problem has such a hold on you that you need help. For yoga to work as a therapy, we have to admit that we are attached to the things around us. We do take things personal.  We feel that life is happening to us. If someone does something to us, we label them as evil or bad instead of their actions as evil or bad. We have to admit that, if we lost our lover, our house, our money, that it feels like a piece of ourselves is lost. This type of existence brings sorrow. Things will always be happening to us and we will always be losing things and people will always be entering and exiting our lives. If we don’t practice non attachment, learn how to let things go with grace, and learn how to  not  take things personal, we will always be unhappy. Our mind will always be in flux so our yoga practice will always be in flux. Non attachment brings peace.




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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