Getting Started (Sutra 1.1)

Deciding that you want to start doing yoga is the first step, to begin a journey, a journey of change. Whether it is to get more fit, stronger or more flexible, or whether it is to experience the stress relieving benefits of yoga, whichever road we first choose to begin.

For me, taking the first yoga class was the hardest part. It was a little intimidating. I was nervous I would look foolish. What if I fall down, what if I am the only person who doesn’t know what I am doing, what if I can’t keep up with the class. At the end of class I realized how non-judgmental the practice of yoga was and how supportive all the other students were to people like me just joining the class. The teacher helped me get into poses correctly and comfortably. She also modified poses for me when I was having difficultly. The next week I found myself back in class. I was hooked; I enjoyed the way it made me feel. I enjoyed the challenge of learning the poses. I enjoyed the people. And that is still what keeps me practicing.

I recommend taking a yoga class over a book or DVD, to start. Many studios have beginning classes and workshops to help you learn the basics. A beginner class will have a teacher who is focused on teaching the basic poses and explaining those poses. Being in a group of beginners, will also let you feel as if you are not alone and enhance your yoga experience. Even more seasoned yogis could benefit from a class focused on the basics.

For me, the hardest part was starting, getting to the first class, opening myself up to others and learning what yoga was all about. The first of Patanjali’s sutras, speaks to this process. Patañjali, who lived in India around 2nd c. BCE, wrote the “Yoga Sutras”, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. Patañjali, wrote:

Sutra 1.1
Atha yoga nusasanam
“Now, here begins the exposition of yoga”.

This sutra has many parts and meanings. The first word of Patanjali’s first sutra is “atha” or “now”. Now is to be present, to not let other things distract us when we are going to practice. Put the day, work, “the chatter” whatever is going on aside for a while. Make time for yourself. What was on your mind before will be there when you come off the mat, and maybe you will see that thing in a new light. The past and the future do not exist for the student of Yoga because one who practices Yoga is fully rooted in the present. Being present allows me to feel more centered, more focused, more available. I don’t worry as much about what happened or what might happen. These are a few of the benefit of existing in the here and now.

The sutra also speaks of beginning and letting go of any preconceived notions of what a practice should be like. If you can’t touch your toes, it does not matter. Whether you can do a pose or not, does not matter. As long as you feel something in a pose and breath you are doing yoga. If you continue to practice you will get better and you will receive the benefits of yoga.

“Exposition of yoga” is the last part of this sutra, which means being open to learning: from the teacher, from the others in class, or most importantly from the greatest teacher, yourself! What we learn as a practice on the mat gradually translates to our lives off the mat. When I practice a balance pose in a class, I find more balance in my life of the mat. Yoga is a process. Be patient. Let it unfold and enjoy the journey.

And… listen to Patanjali, start, take a class.

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Bruno Circolo © 2013