Updated: Sep 3, 2021
A few months back, I decided to read The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
This book was part of our “required reading” when I was taking my Yoga Teacher Training course last year. We didn’t really get into this book too much and while I wasn’t super interested in diving deeper into it per se, I felt the pull to connect with some type of yogic writing to remind myself of the yoga philosophy. Having been out of teacher training for some time and not teaching in any full capacity, I felt myself drifting slightly from the core principles of the yoga “lifestyle”.
The Yoga Sutras are a list (196) of aphorisms on the philosophy and importance of yoga and daily practice as well as the connection between mind, body and soul/spirit. The word Sutra actually stems from the word suture, or to hold together. You could think of The Yoga Sutras as a mini yoga Bible. These bullet points range from a sentence long to a few pages long. I told myself I would read one Sutra a day — totally doable.
It surprised me how much I enjoyed this daily ritual. It’s so important for me to carve out time during my day for the sole purpose of reflection. I need this time to ask myself questions - how am I feeling, could anybody use my help, what can I do to further myself professionally and/or personally, what is going on in the world and where am I in correlation to the bigger picture? All the big questions. The Sutras coincided perfectly with my religious morning sit-down. Rather than unpack the whole book in a few sittings and become overwhelmed and disengaged, I took little bits and pieces of it and then set it aside until the next day.
Anywho. The Sutras heavily press upon the importance of meditation which encouraged and increased my wishy-washy attempts — an added bonus. This book really made me “go inward” (corny, sorry). I re-learned that we are not our thoughts; the first thoughts that come into your mind, the voice that you believe is your conscious? That is not your conscious, that is not you, that is your Ego. In other words, don’t believe the things you tell yourself. Don’t believe the vain, superficial, or shallow thoughts that frequently pop into your mind. That is simply your ego talking. Furthermore, do not believe others’ opinions, input, comments or bad vibes coming from their lips, because that is not them speaking, that is their ego. This idea made the saying “What others think about me is none of my business” really cement in my brain. In sum, don’t take things personally, even when judging yourself. **This Ego Voice gets smaller and can easily be pushed aside or put on mute with regular meditation, or at the least, some daily reflection.** Who couldn’t benefit from this daily reminder?
In addition to meditation, and probably most noteworthy, was the emphasis on helping others or putting others before ourselves. It is a concept that is so simple but so easily discarded with our busy day-to-day lives. With each Sutra that focused on the importance of bringing peace to others (and there were many of them) I became more inspired to ask myself if there was someone I could help or reach out to, to connect with and see how they were doing. I made a conscious effort to do this every single day. I used to be better about this, but like meditation, it was a practice that I had recently felt slipping. When we offer ourselves up to others, only good things come of it. Why aren’t we all beginning our days this way? Who can we reach out to, what organization can we donate to, what good vibes can we send out today? By incorporating this practice to my morning routine, I have seen a huge shift in my overall mood and positive direction of my day. I am at the point where it feels weird or off if I do not connect with someone at the start of my day. There is always, always somebody who could use some positive human connection.
My last takeaway from this book was the attitude towards the physical practice of yoga, or asana. I naively assumed this reading would be about postures, breathing techniques, proper times of day to practice, etc., and that was not the case. Instead, Patanjali stresses the importance of meditation and inner work before the physical act of yoga. Sure, we can practice yoga whenever we want and gain many of its amazing benefits, but we are not truly practicing yoga until we are making the connection of mind, body and spirit. In other words, it is not enough to talk the talk, you must walk the walk ;)
This is something I work on every single day. It is easy for me to whip out my mat and try to master a pose I saw on Instagram within a week. It’s convenient for me to get on my phone and schedule a hot yoga class. What doesn’t come as easily, is sitting with myself — turning everything off so I can look in. That takes serious effort and is a bit of a tedious commitment if I’m being real. But without all the inward stuff, what is the point? If I can’t sit with myself and work to improve who I am, while trying to assist in helping others, then I am not in the position to give advice, teach a yoga class, be a good friend or a good example to my little sister, and so on.
I could go on but I think you get it. While The Yoga Sutras is not a self-help book, the concepts and tools for self-improvement are there if you are willing to take them.
I didn’t write this blog post to encourage you to buy this book or even to convince you to take up yoga (do it). I was inspired to write about my experience of dedicating myself to a daily practice and what came of it — a new insight to dig deeper each morning. To make a time for myself each day to meditate, reflect, help someone who could use a little boost and move my body; a blending of the mind, body and soul, if you will. Another huge takeaway for me is to continue to incorporate books in my morning routine that make me think, reflect and question.
I hope this inspires you to try something new, whether that be a page a day of a new book, a podcast that educates you on something you are interested in, a work out you have been meaning to try, etc. And, if you able, try to make some time each day to quiet your brain and sit with your thoughts. You will be amazed at what a difference this will make in your day, which can only lead to a deeper, more fulfilled life. It may even inspire you to reach out to someone who could use some inspiration in their lives, too!