Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Break-Up, Divorce and Yoga Sutra 1.1: The Past as Our Wisest Teacher

Written by Patanjali, in or around 400 AD, the Yoga Sutras, is a text that memorializes the ancient philosophy and teachings of yoga.  It is believed that yoga originated 5,000 years ago--just a few years before Madonna appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards, adorned in henna tattoos, singing Hindu-inspired music and attributing her buff physique to her daily, 2 hour yoga routine.  (That was a joke).  

Although henna tattoos do not make one a yogi, indeed, one need not ever assume a Downward Facing Dog or step foot on a yoga mat to truly practice yoga.  Rather, the physical practice is merely a catalyst for understanding and implementing yoga's teachings. 

Loosely translated, the first sutra, "atha yoga anushasanam," means, "now you have reached a stage in your development where you are ready to learn the mystic practice of yoga."  This Sutra teaches that, it is by virtue of one's attraction to yoga that she is deemed prepared to begin its practice, and, it is only through one's collective life experiences that she reached this precise, auspicious moment.  

How incredibly profound that, in our first encounter with it, yoga welcomes us by, essentially, reassuring us that we are exactly where we need to be because our life decisions have led us here.  

When sharing this Sutra with my yoga students, I could not help but draw parallels between what atha yoga anushasanam is, ostensibly, attempting to teach and the individual who chooses to end a relationship.  The yogi searches for inner peace and liberation; the person ending his or her relationship hungers for a more fulfilling life.  Not only does each thirst for personal growth, but both recognize that they deserve better, and, at that precise moment, they make a conscious decision to seek it, terrifying  though the unknown may be.  The Yoga Sutras urge us to extinguish any inkling of doubt, reassuring us that our decision was correct, purely because we arrived at it.  As your experiences have brought you here, here is exactly where you need to be.   

While atha yoga anushasanam places tremendous emphasis on the present--the now--perhaps, what I find most beautiful about this Sutra is its implicit reverence for the past.  In order to shape a more gratifying tomorrow, you must acknowledge your yesterday, as it has molded you into today's seeker.   

The first Yoga Sutra teaches us that, our desire to search is indicative of our readiness to receive.  By this rationale, our desire to leave a hurtful or loveless relationship means we are ready to embrace a fulfilling and loving relationship, something that would have been unattainable had we remained in the relationship we so wisely decided to end.

Ancient Chinese poet and philosopher, Lao Tzu, said "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings."  The very first word of the very first Sutra is "atha," or "now."  Now is everpresent and eternal.  The ending may have been painful, but it brought you to now.   Now is the new beginning.  Now, you are exactly where you need to be.


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