Mama Sutras Series
Yoga Sutra 1.1: “Now is the Time for Yoga”
In this second examination of the first sutra (the first part can be found here), I’ll approach it from a deconstruction of the sutra. Next time, I’ll look at it from a parenting perspective.
This first sutra acts as an introduction for all that come after. It sets the stage for the listener to understand and incorporate the philosophy into daily life. Some schools of thought on the Yoga Sutras say that all of them can be summarized into this one sutra.
The sutras were originally shared orally in Sanskrit, and the words have multiple meanings that persist far deeper than in the English translation. There are multiple translations of even this seemingly straightforward sentence. But, this one is my favorite because of the many ways that the English words can be approached and used.
It is, for me, a mantra that I return to as a centering practice. Although I chant it in Sanskrit, it is the English translation that I spend the most time meditating on because it is my native language and is, therefore, alive for me.
Like the posts that will come after in this series, this post is another introduction to enter into the Sutras. Studying the Sutras is the work of a lifetime, and I don’t claim to do more than scratch the surface with my thoughts on them. My hope is to help make them accessible to you.
A common theme in Yoga is to be open to lessons presented to you, to take what speaks to you now and think deeply on it. Don’t disregard the rest. Rather, put them aside until they feel there is a feeling of curiosity about them. The Sutras, like all the forms of Yoga, can be brought into any philosophical, spiritual or religious belief system. They are tools to help you explore what is true in your life.
Most westerners think of physical poses when they think of Yoga. Those poses, called, Asanas, are one of the legs that are laid out in the Yoga Sutras as tools for exploration. Asana is a preparation for deeper work. Once you have moved and stretched the body, it is ready to be still. Meditation or thinking about things comes more easily without the complaints of a stiff body to distract.
Just as you can see asana as a part of the Sutras, you can see the Sutras within the practice of asana. They are tools to focus the mind to think about whatever it is that you want to think about without distractions.
Now is the Time for Yoga.
The word “now” reminds us that this is really all there is. Right now. We remember the past and we imagine the future, but those are abstract feelings of time. All that really can be grounded into is what is being experienced right now (I won’t go into the projections of the self in this experience here, of course. That’s for later posts.)
If we can stay fully present in now, we can also be fully engaged in what we’re doing. We aren’t caught up in what might have been or what could be. We are paying attention.
That’s not to say that you don’t live without thinking about consequences. Rather, the consequences of actions are a part of what you are doing in that moment. It is an authentic way to live with truth and compassion.
Now also presupposes some degree of preparation. Now is the time to settle in because all that has come before has led you to this time and place. There is no more judgment of what has happened, because you are here.
And this moves us into time. If we think of now as a place on a timeline, with the past being to our left and the future to our right, we can stand here in the middle and breathe deeply from the balance of each point in time. Time is always moving and we move along with it, from one now into another now. This gives us the ability to act with mindfulness while we flow through it.
Breathe more. React less.
There’s more time now to really think about what we want since we’re here, now. We’re prepared and present. Without worrying about what will happen or what has happened, there’s room for connection with ourselves and others.
Which is one meaning of Yoga: union. A bringing together. A connection. A willingness to be open to what is. To radically accept what is real and to find the compassion to face it. With this union of time in reality, comes a responsibility for compassion. Another meaning of the word Yoga: is “to yoke.” Whether we like to admit it or not, we are tied to what is around us. While we have no control about what others do, remembering that we have this push-pull connection helps us again, to take action from a place of empathy.
The word Sutra means thread. Threads can be traced. They can have a beginning and an end. They can be stitched into the fabric that we have already woven. They can tie things together or mend broken places.
Threads can be so thin that we don’t notice them at first, like walking through a spider web. But, once we have noticed the threads, we walk with greater presence of mind as we look for more of them. And, if you have ever walked through a spider web, you’ll know what it means to be fully in the now.
Other entries in this series can be found in the Mama Sutras.