Testing some limits; and today, I think I passed.

Another Sunday, another core training session. This 4-hour long class stretched me both physically and mentally; but all in very good ways.

The first 90 minutes of class focused on one asana; but this “single” pose has four variations, and the four “variations” are so different from one another that really, to me this pose is more like four separate asanas. But, technically, today we studied a single pose: marichyasana.

Marichyasana is a doozy of a pose. It has a person twisting, and bending, and folding, and binding, and – let’s face it – contorting in ways that most bodies just can’t do. I loved it. :)

I’ve said before that generally speaking, yoga asana practice draws on three big things: balance, strength, and flexibility. I’m still pretty darn unsteady in the balance department – I have a long, long way to go there. By contrast, my strength is progressing nicely (for example, I can now hold chatturanga solidly for a slow count of 8), but I do still have a decent amount of room for improvement in the “strength” area, too. But my flexibility – now this is the part of the yoga trinity that I have in spades. It’s just the way my body was made; I was born nice and limber, and I’ve stayed moderately active all of my life, so over the course of these past three-and-a-half decades I never lost much of what I started out with as a baby. So I can twist, and bend, and fold, and bind, and contort; and I find it kinda fun. So, I really liked exploring marichyasana, and pushing to find out: Just what can my body do?

Answer: A lot.  :)

After we played with marichyasana (and a few other intense poses) for a good long while, the class changed gears, and we all spent the remaining two hours of our time together learning about the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Yoga Sutras is a text, written somewhere around 100-500 BCE, by this genius-of-a-guy named Patanjali (or Sri Patanjali, if you want to show respect to him). [I call Patanjali a genius not because I agree or disagree with the book he wrote, but because apparently he was a “Renaissance man” {well before the term was popular} who wrote not only a deep philosophic yoga treatise, but also a detailed text about math, and another one about medicine. Anyone who can learn deep knowledge about multiple different topics is a genius in my mind. But I digress…] The Yoga Sutras is considered to be the definitive, foundational text of what real yoga is – not just asana practice (which is the only part of yoga that many people know; that was pretty much all I really knew before this teacher training program), but the entire, comprehensive system of yoga-with-a-capital-Y. Yoga.

I knew the topic of the Yoga Sutras was coming up in my teacher training curriculum, so I spent considerable time this past month reading as much as I could of the text, as well as the commentary that explains the text. And I’m really glad I did this. I think had I not possessed a very basic foundational understanding of the sutras, today’s class would probably have been a lot of blah-blah-blah – that is, an authority sitting in the front of a room, just saying lots of things I simply couldn’t connect with, wrap my mind around, or understand. (And please don’t misunderstand – this is *not* a dig about today’s teacher in any way; this is an explanation of my own limitations when it comes to digesting and really understanding philosophical and esoteric concepts like the ones presented in the Yoga Sutras.) But, since I had done some pre-work on my own, today’s class was an informative clarification of some questions that had come up for me when I was reading the sutras back at home. I was able to be really engaged with the class today, and gained even more understanding about a really, really “chunky” text.

As for the next logical question of, “Okay, so what *is* the Yoga Sutras book all about?” – that requires a very long answer. A Cliff Notes answer would still be several pages long; so a footnote version of a response is as follows:

  • The Yoga Sutras is considered to be the definitive, foundational text of the entire system that we call “yoga” (i.e., yoga is more than just poses).
  • The Yoga Sutras is divided into four sections: Chapter 1 talks about the mind, and how the mind lives in a distracted state, and the process of moving the mind from a state of imprisonment to a state of liberation and ultimate freedom. Chapter 2 talks about the practice of yoga; the actions to take, the practices to engage in, the codes of conduct to live by, etc. Chapter 3 talks about the special powers and effects that can be experienced in a deep meditative state, and how ultimate freedom is attained. Chapter 4 explains what true liberation is.
  • The Yoga Sutras is not a religious text. It points to the need to surrender and be devoted to something outside of oneself (i.e., outside of the ego), but that “something” can be anything. Many people like to call that something ‘God’, and that’s fine, but certainly not required. The “something” can also be love, compassion, truth, kindness, etc.

From here, if you want to know more about the Yoga Sutras than what I just shared, you can either 1) call me, or 2) read a commentary of the text. I’d suggest Option #2, as I am certainly not a scholar on this topic by any means! : ) But I am more than happy to continue a conversation, so long as we’re all clear that I am a neophyte, nothing more.

So, there was today’s core class session; a LOT of content in a tiny, tiny nutshell. Whew!

Stef

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About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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