Every time I come back to the Yogasūtras, there’s always another ‘aha’ moment, like another puzzle piece magically fitting into place. Except the puzzle is not only a classic Yoga text, it’s also my life and all the relationships that tether me in the world.
Yoga is about relationships. That’s something Chase Bossart, Executive Director of the Yoga Well Institute, said when I studied the Yogasūtras with him in Portland, Oregon — my first time studying the text in-depth. I didn’t believe it when he said it, but over the past few years, the realization has slowly dawned on me — it’s not just me on a Yoga mat. It’s me being connected to my mind, body, emotions and behavior, along with the food I eat, the people in my life, the places I go, and the activities I do.
The essence of Yoga is experiential. I think that’s part of the reason the Yogasūtras make more sense each time I study them. When I return to my everyday life, the things I learned from the text have a chance to percolate throughout my system. The next time I pick up the Yogasūtras, I’ve had many new experiences, so I’m better able to relate to the sūtras, and relate the sūtras to my life.
In light of that, I jumped at the opportunity to take Yoga Well Institute’s Yogasūtras in Action course. It had been several years since I studied the Yogasūtras line-by-line with Chase. I thought the overview course would be a nice refresher for what I had learned previously. It was, but it was also so much more. The course took my understanding of how the sūtras fit into my life to the next level.
I learned so much from the course, like:
- The idea that Yoga isn’t something you do only on your mat.
- Everything is Yoga if you approach it the right way.
- Everything you do can be used to develop sustained attention, which is the goal of Yoga as described by Patañjali in the Yogasūtras.
Using Chase’s words, everything you do during the day is either helping you develop sustained attention or helping you be distracted.
This idea has lingered with me since I took the course, reminding me to be more mindful about how I spend my time — paying attention to my body and breath during my yoga practice; not listening to music while I walk in nature; and listening fully to my partner when she’s talking.
Sustained attention is not easy, but think of all the chances you have during the day to come back to the present moment. Chase described this returning as a “spiraling process.” There’s no on/off switch that magically gives you sustained attention. But every time you come back, you get a little bit better at it.
Shawn Radcliffe is a writer and yoga teacher in Ontario, Canada. His writing has appeared in print and digital publications such as Healthline, Science & Nonduality, Men’s Health, and others. He began his yoga teacher training in Portland, Oregon, including viniyoga and other styles. When he’s not at the computer or on a yoga mat, Shawn is often backpacking, bicycling, or wandering the streets of a new city. Connect with him on his website or Twitter.