In the yoga tradition Master Patanjali is a very important figure as he was the first person to summarise in 196 aphorisms – the Yoga Sutras (c.ca 200 BC) – thousands of years of ancient practices. His approach is very structured and concise and has allowed generations of students to learn about yoga and to be guided in their studies of this ancient philosophy.
The first sutra is typically short and to the point:
Atha Yoga Anushasanam.
There are many translations and interpretations, the one I favour has no frills:
We are here, now, to practice yoga
It is all very simple: in the present moment (atha = now) you are on your yoga mat, about to start your yoga practice. All that matters is your presence and focus on the current moment, on the act of practising yoga. You are sitting tall and still; you are breathing in, knowing that you are breathing in; you are breathing out, knowing that you are breathing out; nothing else matters. Nothing can come between you and your yoga practice.
This absorbed state is acquired through practice. It is the channelling of the senses that develops when one is ‘in the zone’ ; when one can truly say to be living life moment by moment, with a focus, an understanding and an appreciation of the present rather than through memories of the past or through the planning for the future.
Only when you are able to focus on the now you can let go of anxieties and preoccupations. It is important to develop this skill to be able to give your mind and body a rest from the sometimes overwhelming thoughts linked to a cancer diagnosis. There is a space within yourself where you can just be, without having to think about tomorrow’s hospital appointment or about how your body has changed.
The practice of yoga, the practice of the here and now, can create the space you need to come to terms with your body and emotions, without the burden of having to manage the infinite number of past or future challenges.
Once your yoga practice has started and you are able to direct your mind to the present moment, then you have put into practice the second Yoga Sutra:
Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah
which describes how:
yoga is the ability to control the fluctuations of the mind
By Barbara Gallani
BKS Iyengar – Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Traditional Yoga and Meditation of the Himalayan Masters