Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What is Yoga? Yoga Sutra 1.1: “I will now review for you how we become whole”

What is Yoga?

Yoga Sutra 1.1: “I will now review for you how we become whole

Zuri Learns About Yoga

Anyone who knows Zuri knows that she experiences a lot of anxiety. She comes by it honestly. It is, a big part of it anyway, genetic. She doesn’t know her dad too well, yet she remembers his anxiety. He was, and still is; always nervous about what other people might think and how he looks in social situations. Her mom is a nervous wreck for sure. Zuri suspects that it is the anxiety that leads to her mom’s drinking. Her mom says that it “calms her nerves.” It seems to. When Zuri’s mom gets home from work she starts drinking her wine. She says, “Ah, my wine.” Zuri notices that it funny that the other liquids in her house are not quite as close to Zuri’s mom as her wine. It is not, “my water” or "my milk.” In those cases it is “water” and “milk.” But with wine, it is sort of like her mom is saying, “my medicine.” Zuri is pretty sure that the medicine is for her anxiety, for her stress.

Zuri loves her mom a lot. In many ways she wants to be just like her—caring, loving, and generous. Still, she doesn’t want to end up needing to drink alcohol to feel better. She sees her mom when she is hung over. She sees her mom not be able to speak clearly. She sees her mom not getting up for work. She sees her mom letting people down. She sees her mom making promises she doesn’t  keep (that one is super personal for Zuri and it hurts). She sees all that. She doesn’t want it. And she also wants to feel less anxious. Zuri wants the thinking and thinking that goes on in her mind to stop or at least settle down.

Homework done and she is lying awake, Zuri decides to start reading one of the books from the yoga bag. The advertisements on the sides of mattress trucks have yoga people on them. They seem so peaceful. This stuff might have something to it-- she hopes. She decides to choose a book and read the whole thing from cover to cover. She reaches in and digs for a skinny book (yeah, if you are going to commit to a whole book make it manageable). She chooses one that won’t take too long to read. She finds, “The Essential Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga” by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally (Three Leaves Press, Doubleday, NY; 2005).

She reads about Patanjali and about sutras. She learns that a sutra is the very essence of something, the thread that holds it together, defines it. She reads that the authors believe that the Yoga Sutra is the “Mother book of all yoga” (Roach & McNally, 2005; first page, Ch. 1). She reads that the real author of this book, Patanjali, was a master yogi that knew all of the physical poses, meditated, and reflected on life, the world, and meaning. She reads that Patanjali had mastered his mind. She reflects, “Ah, I bet he felt so strong.” She reads that yoga has many meanings and in its essence is union. Roach and McNally (2005) tell Zuri about inner winds. She thinks they might mean her spirit, her passions, and her fears. They explain to her that when she thinks and understands, when she practices yoga, these winds unite allowing her to follow her dreams. Zuri loves the idea of this.

She reads Sutra 1.1, “I will now review for you how we become whole.” Roach and McNally, (2005) have studied many ancient texts to translate Patanjali’s words for Zuri. She knows that as she reads it is like reading the words of Patanjali. Below this first sutra, Roach and McNally explain what Patanjali means here. They explain that another meaning of yoga is “to become whole.” What they say is huge. Very huge. They explain that becoming whole happens when you are capable of helping others and when you know what really matters. They tell Zuri that Patanjali was so humble that he uses the word, “review” as he shares the wisdom of the ancient yogis for us. They explain that in his humble nature, he reviews this great knowledge for us. She thinks that this is as generous as Roach and McNally (2005) who have written this explanation of the Yoga Sturas for her. In all of these pages, they review the practice of yoga for her in all generosity. She has read on the back of the book that they have donated all of the proceeds from this book to the Yoga Studies Institute (YSI).*

She loves how Patanjali begins by saying. “I will…” She sees the whole book and she sees that what he says he “will” do he has done. She has had so many broken promises in her life. She loves that Patanjali, Roach, and McNally did what they set out to do—from start to finish—they kept their word. They are like Miss Ely, her science teacher, who does everything she says she will do. It’s like that and it feels good.

She’s getting sleepy. I see her eyelids fall into long blinks as she holds the book. There is something about hope and faith that help sleep settle into your body. A few minutes later, I see Zuri surrender into her sleep. The book folds into her blankets as she turns on her side.

Good night Zuri.

The Process

Yoga is the path of becoming whole, integrated. There is a science to it, a neuroscience in fact. The International Journal for Yoga Therapy http://www.iayt.org/ officially went on Medline in 2012. You can read and see all that is being documented.

From the web page: “The International Journal of Yoga Therapy (IJYT) is an annual, peer-reviewed journal serving Yoga practitioners, Yoga teachers, Yoga therapists, health professionals, and Yoga researchers. We publish scholarly and research-based submissions related to any tradition or aspect of Yoga Therapy.”

As you practice your yoga—the asanas, the breath work, the meditation (and more)—you will move toward an integrated, a neurologically integrated self. Daniel Siegel, M.D., http://drdansiegel.com/ has written many wonderful books about mindful practices and the changes you will experience in your brain and in your relationships (I use his texts in my university classes here at UB).

What is so compelling for me, is that the Yoga Sutras are so correct. Patanjali speaks to what we now know in fMRI studies and controlled trials to be true. There is so much more to learn and we know so much already. 

Yoga creates integration and integration creates health, mental and physical health.

Practice your yoga and know that peace, sleep, and well-being will find you. It is written in the Sutras and is being document by science.



For an overview of the people in Zuri's life go here:

 The Yoga Studies Institute information:

From the web page:

“YSI is a school that teaches how to achieve the ultimate goal of yoga: a life of love, wisdom, authenticity, fulfillment and purpose. YSI courses teach the yogic path as a lifestyle; a complete, daily practice that helps you step into your ultimate self, while honoring your every-day self, and show others how to do the same. YSI trainings are among the few worldwide that reunite the "outer" and "inner" methods of asana, breath awareness, ethical actions, meditation, and wisdom. This powerful synthesis of physical yoga and spiritual understanding is referred to in scriptures as royal yoga or raja yoga and includes all eight limbs described by Master Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutra. YSI yoga accesses all three bodies of being; gross (physical body) subtle (pranic body), and causal (ultimate body). Each asana class facilitates an experience of these bodies, including safe, expert guidance in physical practice, awareness of and instruction in feeling the subtle or energetic body, and finally dissolution in our ultimate nature. The YSI curriculum sources the oldest known Yogic scriptures, teaching an ancient, authentic lineage that traces back 2,500 years.”

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