Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras For Modern Day Life: Don’t Start None, Won’t Be None

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:16: Suffering, that has not yet come, can be prevented.

Defining the Sutra

There are 3 types of Karma. Two of them are created from past actions. Because the deeds have already been done, the consequences are almost impossible to avoid.  It is kind of like someone confessing to a murder and not going to jail.  A technicality or in the yogi’s case, some tapas, makes it possible, but highly unlikely  The third is the Karma that we are currently creating. This is the Karma that we have the most control of. This is the place where we can take actions to prevent suffering.

Modern Day Application

This is a simple truth that great teachers have been pointing to for ages.

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My personal favorite though is “don’t start none, won’t be none”.

Patanjali is talking about preventing suffering that you have not yet created. It is important to understand that just because you are currently not taking actions that lead to pain and suffering, that you still may have pain. Why? Because it is almost impossible to bypass the consequences of your past actions. If you tear your hamstring practicing yoga, the probability of it spontaneously healing is highly unlikely. It doesn’t matter if you are a good person. It doesn’t matter if you immediately fix what you were doing wrong, you still have to deal with the pain of the injury until it heals. That karma has been set into motion.

There are many people out there selling the idea that the end result of spirituality and Yoga means everything goes your way, you never feel bad, you frolic in the sun and dance with unicorns under rainbows. According to Yoga philosophy, if you are still here, you still have Karma to burn. Our Karma tethers us to this time space continuum.  If you get enlightened tomorrow, it is still there waiting for you. What changes is the way you deal with it.


Why It is Important

It starts with you. If you want to stop suffering in your life, you have to do it. If you want to stop pain in your asana practice, you have to do it. If you want to stop stressing out about your job, you have to do it. If you want to stop feeling anger in your relationship, you have to do it. You have to stop the mess before it starts.

Short term thinking is the biggest form of self sabotage and future suffering. Short term thinking happens when we let our current negative emotion dictate our future well being. Yoga gives us the tools to stop self sabotage.

Yoga teaches us to:

Take responsibility– By cultivating a daily practice, the yogi starts to see how lifestyle and state of mind effects them on the mat. The yogi starts to see that pushing to get a pose their body and nervous system is not ready for causes future injury. The yogi starts to see that when  he does not get enough sleep or eat nourishing foods, he does not feel good during practice. The yogini starts to see that positive thoughts, discipline and determination grow her practice and that negativity and whining does not.

Take charge- Once the yogi starts to see how  lifestyle and state of mind effects practice, he take steps to change the outcome. She starts working smart instead of just working hard. Instead of blindly pushing, the yogi learns the proper techniques to achieve a pose. The yogini goes to bed early. She eats a simple clean diet. The Yogi gets on the mat with the right mindset.

As the practice grows and we see the huge effect that taking responsibility has on our practice, we can use the same techniques to take charge of our life and prevent suffering that has not yet come.


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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