Exploring the Sutras
Lesson 6: Moving into Sadhana Pada
The first half of this sutra series was taken from the first chapter entitled Samadhi Pada which contains all the lofty and deep teachings of Patanjali. The second half of the series will be drawn from the second chapter entitled Sadhana Pada. Sadhana is the Sanskrit word that refers to the practice. This means that it is about the how of yoga and contains practical advice and teachings that will show us how to move from a distracted mind to one that is more focused. It is in this chapter that we find the three sutras that relate to asana practice. I find it most interesting that out of 196 sutras that Patanjali wrote, there are only three that directly relate to asana. I will definitely cover those three as the last three sutras of my series.
This week I choose to discuss the tenth sutra of book two. In Sanskrit the sutra is “Te pratiprasavah heyah sukshmaha”. It translates roughly to the following: The minute we think we have it (life, love, everything) all figured out, and there is nothing more to learn, is a very dangerous moment indeed. It is then that we really need to be vigilant and be willing to check, check, and then check again. I truly believe, based on my life experience, that expectations are the root of all suffering. When we have expectations of another person and they don’t deliver, we then suffer. This can be avoided if we stay present and vigilant. To take someone for granted and always assume that they will be there for us or respond in a way that we expect sets us up for disappointment every single time. I know most of us have taught that in relationships we should not take each other for granted. Yet, most of the time, we do just that. It is an unconscious act that most of us are criminal of on a regular basis. This is what breeds contempt and sets us up for failure. Any time we expect another person to do something for us and they don’t deliver, we are the ones who suffer. Even something as benign as expecting the weather to be a certain way can bum us out. Say we had planned to go to the beach and wanted sunny weather and it rains. We will feel bad and angry that the weather didn’t cooperate for us. It is these kind of expectations that we need to pay close attention to. The teachings of yoga are about learning to be present and in the moment because that is truly where we all live. Of course we want to be able to set goals for ourselves and we do have to make plans for our future but we must also be prepared for obstacles to drop into our path unannounced. If we can remember that change is the only constant then we may be able to roll with those changes a little easier and our suffering will be a little less.
I always talk about this sutra when I am teaching yoga because it resonates so deeply with me. I like it so much I put it on the Maya Yoga t-shirts for years. It has great relevance in asana practice for sure. Whenever I go into a new teaching situation or a new studio, I always tell the students that they may hear things in my teaching that are different than the way they may be used to. For example, those that know me know that I am very deliberate in my teaching of downward facing dog, or adho mukha svanasana. If we approach the pose with the attitude of “I already do my downward dog like this and that’s all I like”, it blocks us from possibly learning something new and different that you may really really like. I ask students to forget everything they know about yoga just for a couple of hours and open up their minds to trying something new. If they like what I have to offer, it’s theirs. If they don’t, then they never have to do it again! So, to stay open to trying something new without immediately shutting it out, is yoga in my mind. Yoga is about expanding our minds, not narrowing them. So, stay open and be discerning; you just may learn something new and awesome to add to your little bag of tricks! Stay open to the possibilities that life is constantly presenting to us. This sutra always reminds me of a line in a Rumi poem that says, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open? Step outside the tangle of fear thinking” and breathe!