Patanjali was a great Indian sage writing around 800ce. His work is generally considered to be the best composite overview of the philosophy underpinning the method of ashtanga yoga. The context of this ‘eight limbed’ yoga is far broader than yoga posture, which only accounts for one branch of the eight.
Any student serious in pursuing yoga more deeply can always benefit from thoughtful pondering of this profound text.
The first chapter of the yoga sutras of Patanjali: Samadhi pada.
1:1 Atha yoga nusasanam
Direct translation: Now starts the practice of yoga
Atha- ‘Now’; We draw a line under past experience, our procrastinating, indiscipline, messy relationships, regrets, grudges, insecurities. We decide to commit fully to the path of self-understanding at last, rather than looking outside into the material realm to satisfy our sense of incompleteness.
Yoga- the process of ‘union’ literally to ‘yoke’, to join together. An experience of ‘one ness’. The feeling we get when we feel complete and satisfied. We know this feeling as we achieve it momentarily when we have a good meal or make an exciting new purchase, the problem is, it’s not lasting and often then leads to further dissatisfaction and restlessness as we look to get that feeling again. The pursuit of yoga is the attempt at following a method leading to the level of a lasting satisfaction.
Anushasana- a ‘systematic discipline’. Our instruction in a yoga is characterised by consistent practice over a reasonable period of time. Later in the text, it is shown to be a pragmatic, thoughtful and controlled method, pursued, most importantly, with a sense of humility or devotion to a higher reality.
The first line of the first chapter explains to us we must now concentrate exclusively on a different path for our own happiness than anything we’ve done before. The process is in the instruction of yoga, and it is on that path we now ready to be instructed.