क्षणप्रतियोगी परिणामापरान्तनिर्ग्राह्यः क्रमः

kṣaṇa-pratiyogī pariṇāmāparānta-nirgrāhyaḥ kramaḥ

The succession of changes (the uninterrupted sequence of moments) is only recognized as distinct moments when one has transcended those moments and is on the other end.

PYS 4.33

If we consciously want, we can make significant changes in our lives and transform the world into a better, sustainable place. The results of these efforts may be visible right away, after some time or don’t show up at all: for this reason, not seeing changes can be frustrating and may stop many of us from trying. In reality, changes continuously occur. Nevertheless, we might not recognize those changes in the short term.

A flower seed has to undergo many changes before it starts to blossom and reveals its full beauty. To the uneducated eye, these transformations are unnoticed. Intellectually, we acknowledge that the flower must have been undergoing subsequential processes to grow, but we were not aware of them when they took place. The length of these steps differs from flower to flower. Every significant shift needs a different amount of tiny minor adjustments to be completed successfully.

Sometimes, as yoga practitioners, we don’t feel physical either spiritual improvement, and we deduce that the practice is not working, so we are tempted to stop. The slightest variation occurring during the smallest amount of time – kshana – significantly contributes to a complete makeover. Minor changes also prepare and protect us mentally and physically along the process of transformation. In most cases, abrupt changes could be frightening or shocking. Imagine going to bed as a teenager and wake up the very next morning as an older adult full of wrinkles. It would be a pretty scary awakening, wouldn’t it?

The Bhagavad-Gita, in chapter 11, describes how Krishna hesitates to show his true nature to Arjuna. Once he did so, Arjuna was not entirely ready to embrace “everything” Krishna represents, so he asked him to come back to his “human” form. We could say that a decisive change becomes visible when we have the ability and strength to deal with it. We will notice a difference in our yoga practice once our bodies and minds have gained the necessary stability and balance. And yes, this might require a lot of time, but it is the exact amount of time we need to become more aware of what is happening in the present moment. When we recognize how one thing leads to the next and how everyone and everything is interrelated in this universe, we realize yoga. What actually means changing? According to Yoga Philosophy, something is eternal when its essence is not affected while transforming. Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati writes in The Textbook of Yoga Psychology that the core elements of the entire material universe are electrons, protons and neutrons. They don’t change; what changes are their order and arrangement, so we see different forms and facts. Whenever we see a variation in the effect, something changed in the order and the cause’s arrangement.

Vishnu, the God of preservation, takes different forms (avatar) to save the world in different times. One of his incarnations was Krishna, who in turn embodied various aspects: the mischievous boy called Gopala, adorated by the gopis, the related friend and adviser of Arjuna, to whom he revealed his true essence: God, Brahman, Love itself. During our lifetimes, we undergo several changes to fulfil specific roles and duties: we are children, students, professionals, parents, friends, and sometimes we are all of them at the same time. Each aspect needs more changes to be refined or lasts longer than one other, and it can even change its characteristics while maintaining its essence. Change is always present, either fast or slow, visible or not visible.

How can we make conscious changes for the benefit of all? How can we prevent giving up when we don’t see results immediately? Thoughts are the essence of every word and action, and by observing our thoughts, we can recognize our thinking patterns. To encourage the change we would like to see, we need to modify our thoughts and shift our behaviours accordingly. Once our behaviours can turn, everything else will adjust as well. Master Patanjali says that through a consistent, diligent, disciplined, uninterrupted practice for an extended period, we create the right conditions to “control” our thoughts. We need to be patient and trustful: when the right time will come, the minor underlying changes will manifest as a significant transformation.

Remember: time is on our side, after all.

TEACHING TIPS

  • Teach Jivamukti Surya Namaskar, breaking it down step by step, give precise verbal instructions regarding gaze, breath, alignment and movement. Point out how important it is to be present every moment to make smooth transitions and how many times we are not aware of them when we move through Surya Namaskar fast.
  • Teach Vinyasa krama: explain the name and its five components. Experience it through Surya Namaskar (1st round verbal instruction, 2nd round count the breath on both sides, 3rd round count the right side and invite students to count the left side silently on their own).
  • Teach the same Surya Namaskar at least for one week, then change variation. After two weeks, encourage students to make up their own Sun Salutation, instruct them after two rounds to include twists and balancing asanas. Devote more time to Surya Namaskar than you would usually do.
  • Invite students to choose one asana of a specific asana family (i.e. backbends), challenging for them. Allow them to explore different ways of accessing that particular asana or asana group, give props options, and invite them to become aware of the variations during this experience. Invite them to notice if they feel changes or not while practicing this asana during the cores of the month. Please encourage them to overcome resistance by changing their thoughts, having patience, and trusting their practice. Since each student will have a different asana consider this when planning your class and warm up properly the body before.
  • Teach Salamba Shirshasana step by step: let students (experienced and not) explore each passage at least for 7 breath counts before coming into the full expression of the pose. Invite them to pay attention to how every single step leads to the next one.
  • After the second week of the month, teach at least one mini-sequence of your class in the same way. Invite students to repeat it on their own, either on one or both sides. After the third week, invite them to add one asana to this sequence.
  • Add “Time is on my side” by The Rolling Stones to your playlist, letting students dance freely on it.
  • Recite and explore the interpretation and the literal word by word translation of PYS 4.33 / Textbook of Yoga Psychology / Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, Jivamukti Yoga Chant Book page 17.
  • Recite and explore PYS 3.15 / Textbook of Yoga Psychology / Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati,
  • Recite and explore Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.14.
  • Explore Bhagavad Gita chapter 11.
  • Talk about Lord Vishnu and his various incarnations.
  • Teach the 3-Step Jivamukti Yoga method of meditation for 10 minutes.
  • Encourage students to pick up something they have given up because they thought they would never succeed in. It could be anything from learning Chinese to playing the piano.
  • Encourage students to ask themselves what they could change in their own life, to make the world a better place: reassure them that minor changes are as significant as big ones.
  • Chant mantras dedicated to Krishna.