Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness (translation by Georg Feuerstein)
A couple of years ago, I completed another yoga training with Pacific Yoga. I really enjoyed my experience, as it was quite unique from my other yoga trainings and workshops.
One of my teachers, Kathryn Payne, is a long-time student of Vyaas Houston, the founder of the American Sanskrit Institute. A part of our training was to take a deeper look at Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Now, I am no scholar on the Sutras and certainly this study is a lifelong (if not more) endeavor. However, I thoroughly appreciated the amount of time we spent looking at a handful of them and Sutra 1.2 has stayed with me throughout the years. Now, what are the sutras, you ask? Briefly, they are considered a foundation of raja yoga and are a collection of 196 principles or passages of wisdom that were written by Patanjali, a sage whose origins and lifetime are still a source of much speculation and mystery.
During our training, we would look at a sutra, chant it, and then start to study each word with open minds. Since Sanskrit is an ancient Indo-Aryan language and since so much can be lost in translation, it quickly became evident how one could jump to conclusions about the meaning of a sutra. As a way for us to find our own truths and deepen our understanding, Kathryn would have us look at the different ways in which a Sanskrit word might be translated and would then have us all chip in about what those words meant to us personally. It was really magical, as many of us came from unique spiritual backgrounds.
Here is my understanding of this sutra:
Yoga is the slowing down of movement in the field of consciousness
So there was nothing here that stated how yoga was about doing perfect trikonasanas or sun salutations. When we all started to talk about yoga from that idea of slowing down vritti, or movement, it manifested in different ways for each of us. For some, it meant taking a long walk or a run. For others it was about playing an instrument. According to our discussion, yoga could be happening anywhere, anytime, even after taking a class and then trying desperately not to dislocate your shoulders as you ripped off your Lululemon top and then rushed off to work.
This certainly changed my personal practice and further solidified my desire to shy away from the commercialism that has defined modern yoga in America. Likewise, it also meant that yoga could not be contained in an incense-filled temple. For me, it was a validation for the many things that I hold dear. It also allowed me to see others quite differently.
How do you find stillness in a moving field?