March 2015

Hello Yoga Students,

Chapter one in the Yoga Sutras is a collection of 51 short
sentences on what is yoga, and how the meditative mind is the
goal of asana practice. What gets in the way of the meditative
mind are the vrittis: the Sanskrit term for movement,
fluctuation, changing.

I start this month off with a look into the five vrittis as a
way to deepen our connection to our asana practice. The five
vritts are:
1) right knowledge
2) error
3) imagination
4) sleep
5) memory

Each category of vritti can be beneficial or detrimental to the goal of
yoga, and we make that choice each day. The mind, the citta, is turning
and churning and toggling between any one of these states. When we stop,
come to a full stop in our body, the mind starts to watch the mind and
we can find out what is really real. What is really happening right now.

The first vritti, right knowledge is discussed in I.7 and is called
pramana. (I will talk about the other four at another time)
It implies that through a combination of your senses, logic, and verbal
testimony, you can know what is right.
Now, there are two models of consciousness given under how our senses
work:
The first, is called the mirror. If the mirror is dirty, it will reflect
a dirty image even if that image is clean.
If our consciousness is cloudy, that’s how we will see the world and
circumstance, cloudy and confusing.
The second analogy given is the non-mirror model, this one states that
the reflection of the moon on a rippled lake appears rippled as well.
Either way of seeing consciousness  points out the mis-identification of
awareness with the object seen.

Why on Earth would we want to even consider this? The practical side of
this is that the asana practice is a practice of bringing our body parts
into a line with something, another body part, the breath, a movement,
and to the extent that the mind catches the salient point and brings the
body to the task, the less cloudy the mirror of awareness is at that
moment.
The bent elbow in urdhav hastasana has practical implications to the
health of your shoulders, as well as  a deeper connection to your mind
noticing the bend, straightening it , and integrating that new elbow
into the pose again.  In this case, we look up, use our eyes to see the
bend, and then make an action in the right direction of straightening.
The mind is integral in noticing, the eyes in the seeing. The primary
ingredients missing in a physical practice are  the minds’ ability to
pay attention to what is going on, and using our senses to observe
accurately.
Logic is used accurately when we see smoke and infer that there is a
fire somewhere. This seems like simple logic, but discrimination needs
to kick in as  each vritti has a shadow side of detriment. How many
times have we heard something about someone and assumed it was true,
when it turned out to be gossip? Most ancient texts worth their standing
the test of time are still standing because they are not commandments,
but demand that we take full responsibility for the  choices we make
daily, as our lives are the summations of the countless conscious and
unconscious choices we make.

Which is why I am pleased when all of you walk through that yoga door.
It was a choice to come to class, and that means you let other choices
go by the way side for that hour.  The sutras maintain that all of us
can, through dedicated practice and renunciation of the actions that
pull us backwards, find peace and calm within our lives and  before we
die.  When we are solid and strong in practices that go beyond ego
gratification, then we can be available to others in their struggles and
sorrows. We wont tell them what to do, and we can be deep listeners and
compassionate.

February 2015

Its back to the  mat!

Where are we as February rolls into view?  A look into the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, we find a list of 9 distractions that we can fall into, each one with the potential to divide us from our practice. These distractions are predictable obstacles that arise in Life and they are accompanied by four predictable consequences. Would you like to read them? Please do so with the spirit of inquiry and not one of shame, and not one of knee-jerk commitment. Each one is an investigation into our lives, right as they are today. If we can start where we are, really see where we are, not where we want to be, then Yoga Self-Inquiry in the larger context of the Practice, is real.

The list is called Antaryah…..that which creates a gap.

1.30 The nine distractions:  physical illness, tendency of the mind to not work efficiently, doubt or indecision, lack of attention to the bigger picture of Yoga, laziness in body and mind, failure to regulate the desire for worldly objects, incorrect assumptions or thinking, failing to attain the stages of concentration in practice, and failure to sustain them once attained.

1.31 The companions to the above nine distractions are considered obstacles: mental and physical pain, sadness and frustration, unsteadiness of the body, and irregular breath. First we have the nine distractions, if we can not be derailed at this point, than we live in equanimity. If we don’t, than the disturbance will cause an actual obstruction, something much harder to weed out. Not impossible, though, just harder.

Yoga supplies a remedy:  one pointed concentration. Focus in such a way that your particular distraction does not enter, break the link between conditioned mind and don’t get lost in the delusion that then turns  obstructive. Sutra 1.32  is more than a strong nudge in the right direction, this sutra says it loudly: CONCENTRATE ON ONE ASPECT OF TRUTH AND SEE IT THROUGH.

The mastery of a yoga pose will help weaken the afflictions, the distractions, the obstacles, and then the Sutra 1.3 is clear: life is well lived, eyes wide open. More on the Sutras as the year goes on. In the meantime, I see several personal antaryahs to inquire into, I best get going!