The path of Yoga provides an abundance of wisdom for living life. Thousands of years ago a being named Patanjali wrote a set of snappy aphorisms which were called The Yoga Sutras. We don’t know for sure if Patanaji was female, male, or a collection of people under one name. One thing is for sure though, Patanjali had some nice ideas to help people get to know themselves better and to stay aware of the many unhelpful habits that our egos like to spin off into if left unchecked. One of my favourites of Patanjali’s gems is “ Yoga postures should be stable and comfortable” ( Yoga Stiram Sukham Asanam in Sanskrit).
Yogic wisdom in the Sutras, is not the same as the quick fix ‘life hacks’ or random ‘spiritual’words , printed in a pretty type face accompanied by a pretty picture, often a picture of a very challenging Yoga pose. You know the kind of thing we see on Instagram; #livingmybestlife, #BeGrateful, #keepcalmandcarryon (I have a serious issue with this third one, but that’s for another blog article!) Let me set out my stall. I have nothing against Instagram, nothing against encouraging people to live well and if I did, that would be bizarre because I am a Yoga Teacher and nothing lights me up more than teaching a practice which eases people into feeling good about themselves both on and off the yoga mat.
Spiritual social media posts only show a tiny piece of the puzzle though when it comes to navigating ourselves through the myriad of experiences, we human beings have. I don’t want anyone who is new to yoga, or who has dedicated time and effort to their physical practice to be fooled into thinking that kicking up into a headstand or balancing in Scorpion pose will be the ONE THING that makes your life better so that you can happily hashtag that the best life is being lived. The Yogic path runs deeper than what happens on your yoga mat AND Who said what a best life is anyway?
The Yoga Sutras are touchstones on the lifelong path of Yoga. When Patanjali suggests that Yoga be stable and comfortable, he is not only referring to the bits we do on our yoga mat. I feel this Sutra is a gem for day to day living. What can we do to allow ourselves to feel a little more stable and comfortable? How about when doing physical Yoga practice that we do not over breathe, we don’t totally exhaust ourselves or ignore any painful niggles during the practice. Oh, not forgetting the current circumstances we earthlings find ourselves in with an apparently never before seen virus doing its rounds. I’m finding that only consuming small amounts of news a couple of times per week is letting me feel more stable and comfortable.
I think it’s fair to say that left on autopilot, human beings do not feel stable and comfortable a whole lot of the time. How could we when we are bombarded by unhelpful media messages, always suggesting that we need to buy more, do more, be more. This is where the Yoga path comes into its own. Small actions taken every day or as often as you feel able to, can help us to feel more stable and comfortable rather than blindsided and swept up into disarray. Perhaps you might always pad your knees with a blanket when you do your kneeling yoga shapes to let your joints be comfortable? Perhaps you listen to a calming meditation a few times a week? What about trying a little bit of kinder self-talk when mistakes are made or when the myth of ‘not good enough’ echoes through the mind? What about seeing how you do without so much coffee? All are small ways to do yourself the kindness of feeling more stable and eventually, more comfortable.
Patanjali’s sutras form part of the Royal Path of Yoga. This meditative path intends to bring about ultimate awareness/enlightenment if the student of the Yoga path diligently does the work of following the eight branches of yoga. The physical shapes we do in a yoga class are called Asana and are just one branch on the Yoga tree. In fact, the earliest Yoga postures were seated shapes in which one would sit to meditate. The other branches focus on concentration, meditation and breath work while other paths of Yoga such as Bhakti yoga (devotional), Hatha yoga (Physical exercises) Karma yoga (selfless action) and Jhana yoga (self study and knowledge) all enable the student Yogi to reveal the sense of their true self and the unity with all beings. Patanjali’s Sutras refer to the grounded seat (asana) in meditation practice, rather than the physical postures which became popular in Yoga practice from the late 19th century. We can bring this grounded and easy seat into our daily lives by cultivating a gentle, stable satisfaction in all of our activities, from the more mundane to the exciting ones, instead of trying to pump out every piece of enjoyment for fear of missing out or needing to be seen to be #livingyourbestlife.
If you'd like more of feeling stable and comfortable, why not come to a You're Enough Yoga class? There will be Hatha Yoga, some meditation and a good dose of relaxation. You just need you, your breath and your mat.