A few weeks ago, I finished teaching a teacher training in Strasbourg, France. On our last day, as we were doing a very emotional closing circle, I asked the students to tell me which sutra resonated the most with them. During the training, we discuss and study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which a is book describing the philosophy of yoga. It is a text trying to answer the questions on how our mind works and how to be less affected by our thoughts so we can find the state of yoga; a state of serenity. It is very methodic; giving practical tools to help us on our spiritual path.
A sutra is a short aphorism.
Side note: for those of you who may not know, the physical practice (what we call yoga but should be really called asana) is only the tip of the iceberg of what yoga represents. The asanas are only one of the 8 limbs of yoga, the 7 others have to do with our relations to others, to ourselves, to the breath and to the mind.
There are a lot of emotions during the training and the closing circle. The intensity of the days but also the discoveries the students make about themselves physically and mentally always bring a lot of feelings back up. Emotions are also running high because of how strongly and deeply people connect to one another during these weeks. It’s so beautiful to witness.
I, myself, took my training more than a decade ago and to this day 2 of the people I met then are still my very good friends.
As I was listening to every student explaining which sutra impacted him/her the most, I was fascinated to see that the sutras had a very profound effect on each of them. That makes me so happy because I remember at the time how they had a deep impact on me. I discovered the sutras when I was studying yoga in India and they talked to me very profoundly even though I couldn’t understand everything. And now every time I read them, there is something else grabbing my attention and allowing me to become a better person.
Each trainee was coming up with different sutras which was even more exciting for it means they resonated deeply with them and left a personal trace.
My turn came and two things came to mind at that moment.
First, sutra 2.14 which explains that our happiness depends our ourselves. In the commentary of Swami Satchidananda, it is said: “A happy or unhappy life is your own creation. Nobody else is responsible. You are your own best friend as well as your worst enemy”
In the past, I used to blame others or my circumstances for my situation. It’s so easy to put the blame or the fault on something else or someone else. That way, we don’t have to deal with the situation because it’s not our fault. I think for me it started this way as a lack of awareness, also as a lack of confidence and most likely as well as a way to put the burden on someone else’s shoulders. It’s in a way a coward act since we’d rather endure the situation rather than take actions. What the yoga sutras taught me is that the circumstances may not be perfect, there will always be some challenging situations and while I may not have the control over these situations, I always have the control of my reactions towards them. It may not sound like a lot but it is actually huge.
We all have been in a vicious cycle of negativity and the more blame or fire we add to the situation, the worst it actually becomes.
On the other hand, when I’m able to adapt my reaction to the situation and take the responsibility of my situation I now have the power to make a change. I’m taking control.
I’m not claiming this is an easy task; it is so incredibly hard and requires a lot of courage but the overall outlook on the situation is completely changed and that is so worth it.
The second thing that came to mind during the closing ceremony was the concepts of Purusha and Prakriti which are referred to a lot in several sutras. Prakriti is seen as the Nature with a capital N; meaning everything that is surrounding us (the nature, the buildings, the interior of our home…) and ourselves included. Purusha is referred to as the soul, the pure consciousness.
Nature is always changing; the only constant is, in fact, the change. The 4 seasons, the sky, our pieces of furnitures, our clothes, our bodies, our thoughts… everything is in perpetual evolution.
On the other hand, Purusha is never changing, immuable.
To me, these two concepts are very helpful to ease some tough times I may encounter. Knowing that everything is always fluctuating and that nothing lasts helps me to come back to the present moment (the only moment we have control of) instead of letting my mind spiral into the unknown and worrying future. Whatever situation is happening right now may be completely different tomorrow if I take the time to let it be and find some solutions.
I also find it beautiful and so precious to know that our body is just a vehicle on this life. The house of our soul, our purest self. And our work here, if we are willing to do it, is to discover that pure jewel.
I leave you with one of my favorite quote on yoga by Donna Farhi:
“Yoga is the process of deconstructing all the barriers we may have erected that prevent us from having authentic connections with ourselves and with the world.”
Thank you for reading.