atha yogānuśāsanam |1|
This is the first of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Composed around 2000 years ago the sutras offer guidance on how to still the whirling mind and find a sense of calm in our lives. There are four pada or chapters in the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras each dealing with a different element of a yoga practice.
Opening with “atha” “Now” Patanjali grabs our attention. “Now I am offering this instruction; now you can hear this instruction; now is the time for this instruction”.
This remains as true today as it was when it was first composed and chanted. When we are ready the teachings become clear, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait until we are ready to start listening and practicing.
As if we are a garden, a vegetable patch, the ground is prepared, the seeds are chosen, then planted, the earth is nurtured, watered and fed with light, eventually following perseverance (practice), and observation (dispassion, patience) plants begin to flourish. In this context the plants are our understanding, our capacity to see clearly, free from misknowing or misunderstanding, free from fear and grasping.
And all of this is possible right “Now”.
“sasanam” are the instructions Patanjali will lay out. There is an imperative implied in the term, as though these are instructions which are universal laws, once heard and understood they you can not help but follow them.
“anu” the smallest possible observable thing (similar to atom) also suggests an inevitability to these teachings, once the world is seen as a whole, through the lens of the yoga sutras, it is impossible to unsee, to unhear. As William Blake said “to see the world in a grain of sand” – this encapsulates the term “anu” both tiny and immense.
Now is the time to come and practice….