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This week's YJ newsletter highlights an oldie but a goodie: Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the definitive classic that compiled years of ancient oral traditions into a singular source for yogic theory.
It can be intimidating to dive into the Sutras, what with all the unfamiliar concepts and Sanskrit words and long Indian names. At least for those of us who are more familiar with spiritual writings by dudes like Matthew-Mark-Luke-and-John, that is. But I find that if you take it bit by bit, chewing on a few pieces here and there, slowly but surely you'll get a good sense of what this stuff is all about.
And part of what I love about yoga is that it is so not about the mat. It is so not about the pretzel postures. And it's so not about the hot yoga ass. Judith Lasater's brief article here, outlining the niyamas (Sanskrit for "observances"), makes an attempt to "describe actions and attitudes that we should cultivate to overcome the illusion of separation and the suffering it causes."
Lasater discusses the five niyamas, which are: purity (saucha); contentment (santosa); austerity (tapas); self-study (svadhyaya); and surrender (isvara pranidhana). Though the writing can sometimes get lost in what sounds like New Age mumbo-jumbo about the Self and the ego and whatnot, if you can overlook that, you'll find what amounts to a few strikingly consistent cross-religious themes: things like compassion, and interrelation, and contentment with what is. And suddenly the same themes that you can apply to your yoga practice jump off the mat and into your work, your relationships and your moment-to-moment state of mind.
Give it a read.