This is the very first line of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (a two thousand year old yoga philosophy guidebook) and is a summary of yoga as a whole in three simple words. It translates to, now is the time for yoga. (Atha means now, nusasanam means teaching or instruction and yoga means to calm the fluctuations of the mind – explained in the second sutra) And it really can be all we need to know. It’s there to grab our attention and make us sit up and listen because to practice yoga requires just this – to listen, to observe, to wake up to reality.
I am not a Sanskrit scholar or anything advanced in yogic philosophy but I have been fascinated by the yoga sutras for well over a decade and every time I read them I glean something new and profound. So, I thought I would expand a little on this first sutra and let you know my thoughts and own observations of what it means to me.
Now is the time to listen
It feels to me like Patanjali is saying “Now I am going to teach you, are you ready?” It’s a call to action or maybe a call to wake up. It’s the feeling when Sharath enters the room in Mysore and says in his bold voice ‘Samastitihi’ and we all stand to attention ready to surrender to the teachings of the practice under his guidance. It’s like he too is announcing now we are going to learn something, are you ready?
Every moment is an opportunity
There are only a couple of the 196 sutras that actually mention physical postures. We hear it over and over – yoga is not just about jumping around on our yoga mats. Of course it’s where most of us start which is great. But when we use the lessons from our yoga mat (which I like to call my own personal research station) in our daily life and in our relationships with everyone we encounter, the true yoga starts to work. It’s the way we live each moment and means that it’s always time to live by the yogic philosophies. Of course this is difficult but we can do our best and use our daily physical practice to help keep us on the path to transformation.
Action breeds motivation, not the other way around. Just act and the motivation will come! The set sequence of ashtanga yoga provides a beautiful framework that has helped thousands of people live a more peaceful life and means you don’t have to think about what you will do once you are on your yoga mat. We all suffer from decision fatigue, which can be a real downer on our motivation and using the ashtanga method means there is one less decision to make in the day and hopefully this action will trigger more action and so on.
Don’t put it off
TODAY! Don’t put off another yoga practice until tomorrow cos you never know what tomorrow will bring! Now is the perfect time. We are not getting any younger and unfortunately everything just gets more challenging as we get older. Start where you are and with what you have today. Most practices are not beautiful ‘Instagram-worthy’ experiences in exotic locations looking and feeling like a fitness model. They are challenging, sweaty and wobbly. For me they are mostly a lot of hard work, in my lounge room in amongst the furniture and the toys, in the first thing I found in the drawer in the dark that morning, sweating and grunting my way through my own thoughts trying to breathe out the cobwebs in my body and get as much done as I can before Elsie wakes up. Definitely not pretty but ALWAYS worth it. I get on my mat and I’m grateful for making it that far.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself
Yoga helps us to strengthen our awareness muscle. We get better at noticing what is actually happening right now and what is honestly going on (not what we think is going on under the cloud of our past experiences). The more we practice the better we get at giving ourselves a regular reality check. And with that comes an awakening that we are not our thoughts/stories/memories/emotions.
And then with that comes a forgiveness and a softening of our hearts, our ideals and our judgments of ourselves and others.
With this regular reality check we realise that most of the time, everything is just as it should be and we are ok.
Our choice : Be that person
We can choose how this moment is. We can’t choose what happens to us and what others around us do but we can decide how we respond. By slowing down and taking a deep breath before we react, we can take our time and choose what happens next. Decide to be the person you want to be NOW. If you want to be healthy then be healthy NOW! If you want to practice yoga regularly then practice regularly NOW. If you want to be the person who is calm then be that person NOW.
When Harry and I were on Magnetic Island to celebrate my birthday, I was laying on the beach and I really wanted to have a swim. Harry had already been in for a while and was waving at me to join him. It was the first time we’d been away from Elsie together ever and we were really loving being able to do whatever we wanted to do and in our own time! But then I started thinking of all the stupid excuses why I shouldn’t go in the water. I was really caught up in my thoughts going back and forth. “Ok I’ll go in. No my hair will be all wet and it will take too long to dry before we go out for dinner, too much hassle. Yes, I’ll go in. No, what will I do with my stuff on the beach? Just go in. Oh no what if it’s cold” blah blah blah….
Why was I choosing to sit on the beach when I really wanted to go for a swim? Why was I letting the silly excuses win? In a split second it came to me and I thought to myself “Al, just BE the girl who gets in the water” And so I jumped up and got in! It was like a download from the universe to just BE the girl I wanted to be. I was explaining to Harry about it as we enjoyed the water, and that I realised I did this quite a lot and it was really holding me back. I decided from then on that, I would start to focus on it and just BE the girl who does the things I want to do. It’s so simple it’s ridiculous. I want to be the girl who does many things in life and I get to CHOOSE and the only thing stopping me is me! And now whenever I am paralysed by what I should do, and all the excuses start coming I think, “Just BE the girl who gets in the water”
We never think back and regret a breath or worry about the one coming up in the future so it’s a wonderful anchor to keep us in the moment. Just by focusing on our breath at any time of day it helps to bring us into the here and now (reality) : and it becomes easier to let go of the past and stop worrying excessively about the future.
It’s so much easier to maintain anything than it is to keep starting from scratch each time. With each month, year, decade that passes it gets a lot harder to start. So committing to regular practice (even if its just once a week or one sun salutation a day) can be so much easier that it is to start again.
Give up on the idea of what you think a yoga practice should look like. It will not be the same as yesterday or last year. It will be whatever it will be and it will pretty much surprise you every time so get on your mat regularly and just see what happens.
Don’t wait for the unicorn
The unicorn is a magical and mythical creature and is what childhood dreams are made of but unfortunately it’s not real (even though we all wish it was). Just like the unicorn, that magical time when everything is perfect for you to practice yoga, is never going to happen so stop waiting around for it and using it as an excuse. When we practice that IS when the magic actually happens, just sayin’
I often do this at the end of my classes and you can do it too by setting a timer for about 5-10 minutes. Find a comfortable seated position and simply ask yourself what do I need right now? What does my body need right now? If nothing comes to you, then the worst thing is that you have sat still and breathed for ten minutes which is something we all need more of anyway. But I think you will find that something will come to you. We all have the wisdom inside us to know exactly what we need to do if we just take the time to slow down and listen.
or Try this
Before you begin practice try saying the first yoga sutra “Atha yoga nusasanam” to yourself and see if it helps to draw you in the present. Either in Sanskrit or just in English “Now is the time for yoga”– whatever resonates for you.
Hope to see you on your own personal research station soon. Let’s research together!