You may say namaste to your yoga practice once you roll up your mat, return your props, and rush through your locker room beauty routine. But what if you could channel that high you get after a good flow throughout your day?
That’s basically the benefit of learning yoga sutras, AKA aphorisms or general truths about life that “can be used as a lens to be more aware and compassionate in the world with others and with ourselves,” says certified-yoga teacher Chelsea Jackson Roberts, PhD, (AKA @chelsealovesyoga). They help to supercharge your practice by taking the lessons you learn on your mat into every facet of your life.
“Yoga doesn’t always happen on a mat. We can practice yoga in our relationships, across our communities, and through our actions in the world.”
“After reading the first line of the sutras, it’s like, ‘There’s no turning back now because the practice has already started,’” explains Roberts, who’s based in Atlanta, Georgia and has researched the ways yoga can be used as a means of storytelling and communication. “The light has been turned on.”
Of the 50 Sanskrit sayings translated in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a 2,000-year old tome of yogic wisdom, Roberts says there are a handful she finds most-helpful for navigating modern life.
Here, she shares her 5 favorite pieces of ancient knowledge—plus, tips for how to incorporate them into your yoga practice off the mat.
Sutra 1.1: Yoga is in the now
“This first sutra reminds me that some of our most profound experiences in this world can be the most simple,” Roberts says. “As simple as the line, ‘Now begins the practice of yoga.’”
Sutra 2.1: Every day is an opportunity for yoga in action
“This is one of my favorite sutras to offer my yoga students who are just beginning a yoga practice,” she shares. “Yoga, by definition, means ‘to join’ or ‘yoke.’ This sutra beautifully illustrates the ways in which our daily experiences can be an opportunity to practice awareness, compassion, and truth (integrity). Yoga doesn’t always happen on a mat. We can practice yoga in our relationships, across our communities, and through our actions in the world.”
Sutra 2.29: Follow the eight-limbed path of yoga
“This is the sutra that introduces the eight-limbed path that includes an emphasis on self-awareness, the breath, and even the physical postures of yoga,” explains Roberts. “For me, this sutra is my practical guide and roadmap that supports the ways in which I move, see, and interpret the world. The yamas and niyamas are literally the blueprints for how I practice non-violence, truth, and action in the world.”
Sutra 2.46: Find your steadiness through the postures
“This sutra is essential when beginning, continuing, or returning to a physical yoga practice,” Roberts says. “I always remind my students to be kind to the body and know the difference between the unfamiliar and pain. We don’t want to lean into pain in our yoga practice. Instead, we want to explore the ways we can support the body in a way that feels stable, comfortable, and loved.”
Sutra 3.1: Focus on one thing at a time
“This sutra places emphasis on the importance of making space for focusing on one thing at a time. We live in a busy world where people are driving, talking on the phone, eating, and thinking all at once. It’s essential that we carve out time in our lives to focus on one thing to provide rest and integration. I try this daily by not focusing on the computer or working while I’m eating. It allows me to be more present with my food and even who I’m sharing a meal with.”
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