It is unclear exactly when yoga began, but originally it was an oral tradition. Over time texts about the philosophy of yoga were written. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written in Sanskrit almost 2000 years ago, condense the essence of yoga into a concise form packed with a wealth of knowledge. The word “Sutras” literally means “threads” that are woven together to create the tapestry of yoga philosophy.
The Sutras have many different translations and people are still writing new books trying to uncover and express the true meaning of these powerfully potent verses.
Verse 12, one of the most important Sutras (shown above in Devanagri, the written Sanskrit text) can be translated as: “Consciousness is elevated by Abhyasa and Vairagya.”
While the meaning of the sanskrit word “abhyasa” (devoted or focused practice) seems pretty straightforward, the meaning of vairagya has varied meanings. One version of vairagya is non-attachment, surrender, or dispassion. Another translation is remembrance of our Divine nature or our True self.
To me the meaning of this sutra is to practice remembering that we are Divine. This leads to non-attachment when we realize we are complete. Non- attachment or surrender opens us to the revelation of our own Divinity. This process helps us to become detached from worldly goods, the approval of others, competition, our ego and our physical appearance.
Abhyasa and Vairagya are opposites that work together and support each other. Abhyasa requires effort or work, and Vairagya requires letting go and relaxing. Together they give us freedom to be who we really are – Divine beings. Nothing is lacking.
What a beautiful concept. But does it feel real? Or does it feel like an idea that is out there and something I am supposed to believe? I know most of the time I do not feel Divine. I feel inadequate, hurt when others do not seem to appreciate me, and wanting to make myself be a better person.
How do we turn knowledge into wisdom? How do we make something we are taught to believe, part of us. Wisdom is intrinsic so our thoughts and actions emanate a truth from the inside. It has become part of us. Knowledge is still outside of us, something that we have learned from others but is not yet truly our own.
So we must continuously practice remembering that we are Divine, without being attached to this concept. In a world where we are constantly being compared to others, being judged and ranked, it is easy to feel inadequate. Advertisements continuously tell us we need something else to feel good, creating desires to have the latest brand or newest fashion.
Yoga reminds us that we are Divine by asking us to connect with our breath, to explore deep inside ourselves for our truth, to accept ourselves completely as we are in this moment, and to be keen observers of the connection between our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. The physical practice of yoga is meant to support the spiritual aspects of yoga.
Believing we are Divine does not mean thinking we are better than others. Rather it means that we are all connected, we are all Divine and we should treat every one, including ourselves, with deep compassion and respect.
Yoga reminds us to listen to our bodies, clear our minds of useless chatter, and focus on the practice of remembering our Divine nature.
Sometimes I have moments of feeling more Divine than others. I get a glimpse of an inner peace when I feel complete. Being connected to the Divine helps me to feel like I am loved and I am in love.
Then I lose it. Something happens and takes away this feeling. But yoga helps me to practice remembering it over and over again. It reminds me that being Divine isn’t striving to be better than I am. It is accepting and honoring who I already am.