Vaguely, I remember at some point in my studies with Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor (at this time I was in New York, before I came to Boulder to continue studying with them) where Richard was talking about the first verse of the Patanjali Yoga Sutra(s), the terse two words: “Atha Yogaanusasanam” (pronounced something like aahhhtaa yogaaaanooshaasaanaam).
This verse is often translated as “Now the study of Yoga”.
What I remember most is Richard emphasizing the importance of “Now” in this verse to suggest that we have now arrived at the study of yoga because nothing before now led us anywhere else, actually. We’ve made many attempts through many different pursuits and paths to achieve some kind of solid destination in the external world by which to measure and affirm our egos – however, all of these achievements have proved of temporary importance and fleeting satisfaction. Nothing outside of us has become a reliable, permanent refuge. Alas, we awaken, surrounded by the ashes of our impermanent stories, wondering: what happened? How did I get into this? How do I get out of it? Thus, we arrive at the study of yoga… “Atha Yogaanusasanam” …
As a yoga student and teacher, I find it helpful to consider this first verse of the Patanjali Yoga Sutra(s) again and again. All too often our minds wander far away, far from being here, now, even when we are supposedly practicing yoga.
What does it mean to be here and now (perhaps this question could also be phrased as: what does it mean to practice yoga?)?
Is the “here and now” defined by an external place and a point in time? If so, where are the boundaries to here, when are the limits of now? We all know that we can be in the same room with somebody and still be world’s apart. We can be on the same clock as somebody but in a completely different experience of that moment. So it seems: the “here & now” is not measurable from the outside.
Being present is an internal awareness, a tuning-in to the present experience, a connecting with the bodymind in its immediate circumstances.
That said, what then is the value of physical space and conventional time? Does it no longer matter where we are? Does it no longer matter when we do something?
We live in a unique wave of human history when it is easier for us to communicate with people on the other side of the world then it is to communicate with the people next door. How many of us have more friends and familiar faces online then we do in our own neighborhoods?
Our sense of locality – our physical rooting in space – is threatened everyday by the quickening of technology and transportation.
Our sense of rhythm – our mental rooting in time – is threatened everyday by the convenience of technology and the immediate gratification of consumer culture.
We are living in a world, a planet, this amazing Earth, that is battling everyday a complete dissociation with its mega-bodymind, aka, Nature.
Nature is our Here & Now.
For this reason, atha yogaanusasanam…
(photos courtesy pexels.com)