Align Your Self

Celebrating 12 years of yoga teacher training!

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Lori Gaspar
8:22 am

Yoga Sutra 1.7

Yoga Sutra 1.7 
pratyaksanumanagamah pramanani
Pramana refers to valid means of evaluating. The means are: direct perception, inference, and testimony.

This is one of my favorite sutras as it tells us how we can determine what is correct information. The order Patanjali lists the 3 ways matters, from more reliable to less reliable.

1. The first and most reliable is direct perception - when we experience something for ourselves. What did you see, hear or feel? This is also the best way to learn something. For example, you can read about swimming and watch others swim but you really can't learn how to swim until you get in the water and try it yourself. In yoga, we strongly emphasize the principle of direct experience as a way to learn more about yourself. Perhaps you have heard Pattabhi Jois's quotes "Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice." and "Practice and all is coming." Also, pausing and reflecting as we practice yoga helps us absorb and process the information we are receiving.

2. The second way, inference, refers to perceiving based on logic and reasoning. For example, if you see smoke, you know there is a fire somewhere. In yoga, we cultivate the ability to discern by comparing our direct experiences. If I do this - what happens? If I do that - what happens? 

3. The third means is testimony, when information is provided by a wise source. Sources could be writings, such as reference books or scriptures, or the opinion of an expert who has spent many years mastering their subject. Consider the qualifications of the authority - are they truly experts? In yoga, there are a lots of different opinions on alignment and styles so how do we decide what is right for us?

To determine if the yoga authority is reliable, consider:
How long has this person been practicing yoga? 
What makes them an expert? 
What happens when I apply the recommendations to my own practice - have I had a positive experience in the past?

Let's apply this sutra to today's world of alternative facts and polarized opinions. What if you are unsure of all the conflicting information spinning around? How do we know what is true? First, evaluate your direct experience. Second, use your intellect. Third, what do trusted references say? If all 3 means are in alignment, then that is very reliable information. But what if there is a conflict between the three means; perhaps your direct experience is different than what you hear others saying? Then you should trust your direct experience over another's opinion. Use logic to determine if someone may be trying to sway you for their own benefit. For example, an independent research scientist's opinion on a scientific topic is more likely to be reliable than a company executive whose corporation would benefit from the data.

There is a lot packed into this sutra. For today, try evaluating something you are unsure of based on the three means and see what conclusion you come to. Let that conclusion rest and percolate. In time, all truth is revealed.

Lori Gaspar
8:21 am

Yoga Sutra 1.6

Yoga Sutra 1.6
pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smtayah

The five vrttis are:
pramana = correct knowledge
viparyaya = error, misperception 
vikalpa = imagination
nidra = sleep
smrtayah = memory

While there are many thoughts that can swirl in the mind, they all fall into one of these five categories.

Observe a thought that is entering your mind today - what category does it fall into? We'll look at each category in the next 5 sutras...

Lori Gaspar
8:20 am

Yoga Sutra 1.5

Yoga Sutra 1.5
vrttayah pancatayyah klistaklistah
The fluctuations in the heart-mind are five-fold. They are either helpful or harmful.

Our thoughts, words and actions create fluctuations in our field of consciousness. These can either bring us closer to our true Self (helpful) or they can lead us astray and cause pain and suffering (harmful). For example, if you have a thought that enters your mind, say you think you aren't good enough to do something you really would like to be able to do, so you decide not to pursue your dream or goal. This makes you unhappy and you lose even more confidence and thus begins a downward cycle. In yoga, we learn to break this unhealthy pattern by repeating positive affirmations or building confidence through asana, so that the thought that enters your mind is replaced by something helpful. When you do this enough, a healthy pattern develops and the harmful one dissipates.

Another example of a vrtti (fluctuation) would be an action. When you go for a morning walk each day, that is helpful - it makes you feel better, gets you moving and gives you time for reflection. A harmful action might be if you decide to answer emails first thing every morning so you never end up getting your exercise or walk in. The action of answering emails is leading you away from health.

In your life, can you identify a healthy vrtti and a harmful vrtti? Feel free to share in the comments below.

The coming sutras will describe more about the the 5 types of fluctuations.

Lori Gaspar
11:34 am

Yoga Sutra 1.4

When we are not abiding in our own true nature (clearly connected to our Self), we mis-identify with the things we are not. We identify with our temporary states rather than our permanent Spirit. Read More

Lori Gaspar
6:45 am

Yoga Sutra 1.3

Typically, our Spirit is clouded by our fluctuating thoughts. Think of a lake, the water is transparent when quiet and still but the water becomes cloudy when disturbed by waves. Thus the swirling thoughts of the thinking mind creates a veil and we can't see our own sacredness clearly. Read More

Lori Gaspar
6:49 am

Brahman and Atman

Atman is the sacred aspect of the individual. Brahman is the sacred aspect of the universal. Read More

Lori Gaspar
6:46 am

Yoga Sutra 1.2

This sutra defines what yoga is. Yoga recognizes that our thoughts can stir us up, lead us astray, distract us, and create suffering. The techniques of yoga offer a variety of methods, such as physical postures, meditation and breathing techniques, that teach us how to calm and focus the mind. Read More

Lori Gaspar
6:43 am

Yoga Sutra 1.1

Today we start with the first sutra - Patanjali states that from here onward the instructions for yoga will be provided. "Now" - is an important word. Yoga is about living and practicing in the present moment, not the past or future. Read More

Lori Gaspar
7:40 am

Lori's Common Yoga Teacher Cues That Need Composted: #1

First in a series Lori's Common Yoga Teachers Cues That Need Composted: "As you lift your arms up to slide your shoulder blades down." I am including a picture here of what the natural movement of your shoulder blade is and should be when you lift your arms up. Your shoulder blade rotates to assist the lift of the humerus (arm bone). This action also moves the acromion process out of the way. So a more accurate cue would be to allow the lateral edge (outer) shoulder blades to ascend and the medial edge (inner) shoulder blade to descend as you lift your arm. But very few students can grasp that level of detail. Read More

Lori Gaspar
10:28 am

Finding Balance

In hatha yoga, we purposefully combine opposite energies to find balance in our center. Many of the techniques we use in yoga are meant to counter balance the repetitive movements we use in our daily lives that drift us away from health. For instance, many of us sit with our arms forward for long periods of the day, checking our phones, working on the computer or driving. In this position, the hips are chronically flexed and the chest tends to narrow. Practicing back bends invites an opposing action by stretching the hip flexors and opening the chest. Read More