Flow Focus: Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

Camilla Explores Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

In my classes this month, I have quoted from the works of Patanjali, written around 2 000 years ago.  No one knows much about Patanjali. Some believe the Yoga Sutras attributed to him, a collection of wise sayings, were passed down from yogis living in isolation from society, through the generations until eventually recorded in writing. Others say they were created by this one person known as Patanjali. Whatever the case, it is an important philosophical text that can add a little wisdom to our lives today. Below are some lines significant to me. But if you read this book (which is so short you could do it in half an hour), you will no doubt find other parts of significance to you.

"By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness" - Book 1, Sutra 33

Take from these words your own interpretation, relevant to your own perspective. To me, it is about finding a good way to be a part of this world. Who we associate with has a subtle yet strong effect on our own being. Bringing the more positive aspects of our lives into the foreground strengthens us to become part of a constructive community.

"Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness." - Book 1, Sutra 14.

This is what we are all aiming for, to get on our mats, starting little and often and building gradually, until our practice becomes a natural part of our being.

"Wherever we go we reflect our happiness onto people and things. When we see a smiling face and feel happy, it is because the smiling face reflects our happiness. Just as a pure, clean mirror reflects our face beautifully, certain pure, clean faces reflect our happiness …can only reflect or distort our own inner happiness." - Book 1

Sometimes we might blame others for the way we feel and allow terrible experiences of the past to taint us. Sometimes we need to talk through what happened in an appropriate way in order to process it properly in our minds. But once all has been done that can be, there comes a time when we need to let go, realising that the pain we carry inside is merely allowing that injustice to continue harming our own self. If we want to be happy, there comes a day when we have to let bitterness and anger go and without forgetting, move on to find something better with which to fill our hearts.

Chitta vritti nirodhah

"Modifications of the mindstuff is yoga." - Book 1, Sutra 2

In other words, yoga can bring you back to that calm state of mind. Use your time on your mat to re-boot your physical, nervous and emotional systems. Breathe to aerate your mind, ridding that chitta (mind chatter) and drawing into a one-pointed state of mind. Connect with your physicality, enjoy making shapes and breathing into them. Then rise from relaxation renewed, re-charged and ready to contribute to this world in a more effective and decisive way. Camilla Leyland


Camilla Leyland teaches Yoga Flow, Beginner's Yoga and our monthly Family Yoga class at Camyoga.

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