For those of you not on social media, I thought you might like to read this open letter from a GP, encouraging the NHS to offer yoga to patients. Here’s an excerpt:
‘Every day in my job as a GP I think of the potential of Yoga. Yoga could have a positive impact on almost every health related situation that comes into my consulting room. It comes up in discussions about weight loss, anxiety, back pain and depression, pregnancy, cancer, cardiovascular health and ageing. I could go on. The more I consider the role yoga has for an individual person coping with a particular health concern, the more I see the potential for Yoga to become a public health intervention that society could opt for to bolster the health of the nation. From a public health perspective, if a Think Tank was trying to devise an intervention that had potential to improve physical and mental health parameters across all age ranges with great accessibility and appeal, with little outlay for the individual in set up costs, I challenge you to find a better intervention than Yoga. individual and public health level that offers positive and sustainable improvements to health across the board.’
I know you are among the converted but positive affirmation is a good thing!
Last year, we used the bhavana of cakras to inform our yoga practice and to focus on areas of the body and the self. I want to bring us back to our relationship with practice. This term, the breath will be our focus to guide us through shapes and feelings, bringing us to the present:
‘Yoga takes you into the present moment, the only place where life exists’ (anon.)
I was asked if we would be chanting this term – what an excellent idea! The longer classes have more space to work with the yoga sutras. In the first lesson, we return to the familiarity of the first four sutras (or aphorisms) in Patanjali’s yoga sutras which begin to define yoga. A brief summary is that until we have full awareness of our own being, our own centre, and can focus on the now, we cannot be yoga. We need to experience this place of connection and being, to live yoga.
The yoga sutras contain four chapters: (1) defining yoga, (2) how to practice yoga, (3) the gifts or special powers that can be learned and (4) ultimately, the deep integration of the self with the Universe, the state of samadhi
Yoga sutras 1 – 4, chapter 1:
YS1.1 atha yoganusasanam
And now the teaching on yoga begins
YS1.2 yogah cittavrittinirodhah
Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence, to direct and focus mental activity
YS1.3 tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam
When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature which is unbounded consciousness, the inner being establishes itself in all its reality
YS1.4 vritti sarupyam itaratra
Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind, we identify with the activities of the mind.
The sutras take you on the journey of yoga. They are multilayered in meaning and draw you in. I often feel I am reading sutras for the first time. Each time I open a page, I see something new. The path to understanding often becomes more confused before opening to understanding. Some of the ideas that you can read about are considering your relationship to obstacles that lead you away from freedom, how to be in personal relationships with integrity and freedom and your relationship with faith and trust. It’s a life journey. And all the richer for being shared.
‘Yoga is the negation of the thought composed mind. Then the seer abides in his own nature’ The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, cited in Soul to Soul, John Mundhal