This on-going discussion examines our experiences in asana and life through the lens of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Through reading, experimentation and the sharing of our experiences, we work to deepen our awareness and appreciation of life and increase the effectiveness of our actions. If you are new to this discussion, please begin by reading our Introduction to Yoga Philosophy.

finding the way: pairs of opposites

Preparation for Philosophy Class Discussion
Sunday, June 14, 2009 (2:30 – 4:00pm)

Goldilocks did not set out on a quest for porridge. She happened upon the porridge, some too hot and some too cold, before she discovered that there was porridge that was just right, and ate it all up. Most of us are like Goldilocks, not looking for anything, in particular, sampling what comes our way. Yoga would say we are wise in our ignorance, that we cannot know what is right for us. But we can tell what is wrong. Too hot. Too cold.

So, finding our way in yoga is like traveling down a dark hallway. We cannot see the way (which is faultless, infinite and indescribable); we follow it by bumping into the walls. Too hot. Too cold. All the philosophy of yoga is based on this idea of duality. Physically, in asana we move parts of the body in opposition to other parts to understand their relation, their range and connection. Emotionally, we negotiate our path between sukha continue reading »

on the path

Preparation for Philosophy Class Discussion (5)
Sunday, May 17, 2009 (2:30 – 4:00pm)

The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali tell us that anyone can reach their full potential with dedicated practice. The Sadhana Pada lays out a methodical sequencing of skills to master in order to achieve this. These are the eight limbs of yoga. This month, we will begin to experiment with the first limb, Yama, meaning restraint.

Review sutras II.29- II.39. Think critically about what you read and experiment with these ideas in your asana practice and life. continue reading »

discriminating awareness –
what’s going on?

Preparation for Philosophy Class Discussion (4)
Sunday, April 19, 2009 (2:30 – 4:00pm)

This spring we will use our time to experiment with the ideas in the Sadhana Pada, the second chapter of Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras. Sadhana means practice and this chapter deals with the practical tools we use to refine awareness. The Sutras tell us that discriminating awareness, viveka, will destroy ignorance, the source of pain (II.26).

To prepare for our discussion, please read Sutras II. 26- II. 45. Also review the preparations for the three winter meetings as well as the accompanying exercises. continue reading »

afflictions – the five klesas

Preparation for Philosophy Class Discussion (3)
Sunday, March 8, 2009 (2:30 – 4:00pm)

As we discussed last month, the klesas are the 5 related afflictions that disturb consciousness: avidya means spiritual ignorance. Because of the circumstances of our perception and existence, we identify with changeable nature rather than unbounded consciousness, causing us to feel vulnerable and alienated. This misidentification engenders asmita, egoism, where we confuse the seer (consciousness) with the instrument of seeing (the human self). Asmita gives rise to the feeling states of raga and dvesa, attraction and aversion, and abhinivesha, clinging to life, or as Mehta’s commentary suggested, desire for continuity.

Avidya and asmita are abstract and difficult to understand. What is spiritual ignorance? How do we understand egoism when it seems the ego is asking the question? How do we achieve the necessary perspective?

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you are the musician.
you are the instrument.

Preparation for Philosophy Class Discussion (2)
Sunday, February 8, 2009 (2:30 – 4:00pm)

Last month, as we used our asana practice as a laboratory, we observed that we play dual roles. We are both the experimenter and the subject of our experiments. The philosophy of yoga tells us that this experience of duality is fundamental to existence and is characterized as purusha (the seer, or awareness) and prakriti (the seen, or nature). Consciousness, or citta, is reflective of both purusha and prakriti. As we observe citta, we recognize pure awareness and we recognize the impermanence that is characteristic of nature, for example irritability or despair caused by fatigue.

Yogah cittavrtti nirodhah. Yoga is the process and result of stilling the fluctuations of consciousness. Tadah drashtuh svarupe avasthanam. Then we dwell in our own true splendor. We are practicing yoga when we train consciousness to remain aware but unmoved by the impermanence of the world.

continue reading »