Introduction to Patanjeli’s Yoga Sutras

Return to love and renew

Return to love and renew

In the last quarter of 2014 we began the study of the first 22 yoga sutras of Book I of Patanjeli’s Yoga Sutras as interpreted by Nischala Joy Devi. The book we have been following is called the Secret Power of Yoga. The fundamental difference of this interpretation is that Nischala refers to the (spiritual) heart instead of mind as the seat of consciousness.

This was a revelation for me. A simple change of words could completely change the energy from struggling to control the mind to allowing something (the heart) to be in its natural state – because, ultimately, we can’t really control the monkey mind. It is restless and will settle down only for short periods of time. However the heart is steady. It has a beat, a rhythm that does not fail us. With the steadiness of the physical heart, the emotional/spiritual heart is the center of our being, not the mind. Also, with its location in the center of our body, it ultimately controls our response to life.

Research has found that it is the heart that starts the stress response. The Institute of HeartMath has graphed the stress response. The normally smooth sinus wave of the heartbeat suddenly becomes rough and jagged. This state is called the incoherent heart. By bringing the heart back to coherence, the stress response ends, anger or anxiety stop. This can be achieved by focusing on the breath and on a joyful memory or the feeling of joy. It works so well, because the brain cannot hold two conflicting thoughts at the same time. It is up to us what we choose to spend our mental and emotional energy on.

On a personal note, when I follow my heart, I feel at peace. When I follow my mind, I usually remain restless, because there are always more details to take into account, there may always be a better way… So for me, identifying the heart as the seat of consciousness makes perfect sense.

Here is an abbreviated version of the first three Sutras:

Sutra I.1 reminds us of starting the study of yoga with humility (which is often underestimated).
Sutra I.2: Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart.
Sutra 1.3: United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature – joy.

If we embrace this, all the other sutras are no longer necessary. They just try to keep the mind busy and entertained. The mind likes reason. It has a need to understand. It wants proof and a road to follow. The heart however is simple. It just wants to exude love.

For this reason, lecture and discussion help the mind to understand, to gain a new perspective and release old concerns or struggles as well as the stress our mindset has created for us. By learning to change our perspective, we create less stress and are able to relax more deeply.

Then, just for that day, we can know that all is well.

Love and peace and a very joyful 2015

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