June 5, 2012

A Year with Patanjali. ~ Eve Grzybowski

Here’s an interesting question:

If Patanjali were alive during this age of the Internet, would he have succumbed to blogging or even tweeting as a means of communication?

And, if so, would it have been possible for him to be as pithy in his tweets as he was in his verse?

Would readers want to spend days and weeks and months unraveling the meanings of each of his sutras? Or, would readers, sensing this would require much hard work, just move on to a Facebook update, YouTube video or MP3 file?

Two weeks ago, I dived in and started wending my way through the dense thicket that is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.

I pictured myself like blogger Julie Powell of “Julie and Julia” fame, who took up the challenge of cooking over 500 of Julia Child’s recipes in 365 days. What I wanted to do, however, instead of bowing to the current popularity of chefs and culinary arts, is present Patanjali’s 195 sutras over a year period, hopefully interweaving them into the fabric of my everyday life.

Why would I want to subject myself to a project that could at any time become onerous or even end up being impossible to accomplish?

The obvious reasons:

  1. I think it’s a virtuous activity.
  2. I respect other serious students of Patanjali who have gone before me.
  3. I like a challenge.
  4. I’m at the stage in life where spiritual studies are appropriate.
  5. Keen yoga students and teachers like me ought to understand the Sutra.

The real motivator for m, though is that all the “Wise Ones” say the sutras are the gist of yoga – people like, B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar, Georg Feuerstein, Satyananda Paramahamsa and newer commentators such as Vyn Bailey and Chip Hartranft. They must know things.

Perhaps I’m being selfish in using this blog as my own online study course – doing self-study (svadhyaya) in a public forum. Living in rural New South Wales, Australia as I do, there aren’t a lot of sutra study groups for me to participate in. But, I also think it’s time for me to do this. And I’m sure there are a lot of people out there like me who are hungry for the wisdom of the old sage.

In the two weeks of writing on my blog, “Yoga Suits Her,” this challenge I’ve set for myself hasn’t been a completely smooth ride.

Bending Patanjali’s Sutra around the events and thoughts in my life is not easy. First, I have to read all the commentator/translators I rely on. Six of them sit on my desk; and to be honest, they don’t always seem to be singing from the same songbook.

Second, and related to the first, the sutras need careful unpacking so as not to misinterpret or lose the coherent brilliance of the overall treatise. Since my experts sometimes disagree with one another, I might end up with an interpretation that will be entirely different on a second or third reading in a year’s time. But by then, my impoverished ramblings will be out there published for all the worldwide web to see.

Yesterday, I sat empty-headed and somewhat resentful of the task I’d set; nevertheless, I did post. I did it, even while grappling. I know from doing yoga practice for more than 40 years that faith in Patanjali’s system will call forth the best in me.

I’m sure it says so in one of the sutras.


Eve Grzybowski has taught yoga for the past 30 years. She is the founder of Simply Yoga in Crows Nest, NSW, and the author of Teach Yourself Yoga and The Art of Adjustment. She writes about yoga and country life in Australia at eveyoga.com


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Editor: Cassandra Smith

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