So, as I said a couple of weeks ago, I have been studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Sutras are a collection of 195 aphorisms divided into four chapters. The first chapter instructs on meditation (the most important aspect of yoga according to Patanjali), the second chapter is about additional practices, the third chapter discusses supernatural abilities and the fourth chapter is about enlightenment. Nothing is really known about Patanjali and so he remains a kind of a mystical figure.
The Sutras got me thinking about their relevance in a wider sense and about yoga in general. How exclusive yoga can seem. How often people might just think: what Sutras, Patanjali who, what's the chanting all about? And what about speaking of Sutras and other texts in open classes, how/if to present them at all? Let's face it, the whole thing can appear a little religious/sect-ish when heard out of context and/or for the first time. I am rambling now so let's have a look at an example.
I went to a class recently where the teacher mentioned the sutra above which is from the second chapter... I am not quite that far in my reading. There was no introduction, no explanation, no insight. She simply read the text in sanskrit, then in english, then made us chant it. The exercise felt a bit contrived and a bit irritating and I felt that I gained or learned absolutely nothing from it. Was it me or was it the technique? Back in my newbie yogi days, I probably would have run and never come back...
I had been dipping in and out of yoga for years before finally embarking on a dedicated personal practice. The thing is, even though I always felt somehow attracted to yoga, every time I came to a class, something seemed to have gone wrong. A common thread through my early experiences was a general air of snobbery, superiority and exclusivity in the classes I attended, which I found so off putting that it always took me a long time afterwards to try again. I must have been really unlucky because I'd hate to think that this impression would be a norm. Or is it?
As I see it, one of the the challenges of the presentation of yoga (once you 'get in' and become acquainted with the terms) is how to stop yourself from becoming one of those types who speak in jargon and yoga shorthand, and as a result come across as snobby and alienating by default. How to present the ancient yoga wisdom in a modern, relevant and understandable way and without sounding like a new age weirdo? Yoga should be flexible and democratic. What do you think?