Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Reading the Yoga Sutra

I've been practicing yoga on-and-off for about 3 years now. I've read a few books on the practice and I have always found something in my readings to encourage me in my practice. But as far as the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali is concerned, it is untouchable.

I have several translations of the yoga-sutra in my personal library. They are often translated by Sanskrit scholars with commentaries that the layman like myself find inaccessible. Why do I always reach for the thick, scholarly translations of the Yoga-Sutra? To simply purchase a layman's translation seems amateurish somehow. Out of sheer egoism, I am making life difficult for myself. I know that, but I still do it. It's a compulsion.

I am an over-reacher in many aspects - a manifestation of my ambitious, competitive character. Even in my reading, I always want to read many books at the same time - I set up reading challenges just to motivate myself; I am at my peak when I am competing against someone, or something.

But - yoga has brought into my life a sort of clarity - although these epiphanies come in intermittent bursts and often have to be re-learnt. One of the lessons learnt is this: we can only start with the here and now. Everything proceed from here forth.

What does this mean? In class, I often push myself to do the difficult poses even (or especially) when I am not strong enough for them. This compulsion to push to the limits is the ego acting out. Wisdom is to know when to stay at the building poses, until strength is acquired to go further. It also takes humility, to accept yourself as the beginner that you are. This is something I am still working at. ;)

So in the here and now, I have to accept that to read the Yoga-sutra, I need a more beginner-friendly version. In fact, maybe I need a Dummies Guide to the Yoga-Sutra. Until that is actually published, I will make do with the Chip Hartanft translation published by Shambhala and see where it leads me. It looks approachable enough (I hope). If it also proves too challenging, I'll have to go look for yet another translation. I just hope my humble mind is adequate for yogic metaphysics. Will update on my progress. If there is any.

1 comment:

Rebecca H. said...

I would like to read more about yoga at some point -- I've gone through one phase where I was reading a lot about it, and I'm sure I'll go through another. I need yoga partly to keep my cycling muscles loose (rather, to prevent them from getting too horribly tight -- they may never be loose), but, of course, it's so much more. I've learned a lot from yoga and I'm sure I'll learn more.