Sanskrit text and translation
now yoga teaching
"Now begins the teaching (of) yoga"
√yuj : to unite, to join, to put on a yoke, to meditate
anusāsanam: teachings coming from a long tradition
anu √sās: to teach according to tradition
sanam: instrument for
« atha anusāsanam (of) yoga "
Reading the sūtra
“Now”, the first word of the aphorisms of the Yoga Sūtra, is in dialog with the last word, iti: “it is so” (YS IV.34).
This first word is weighty. Here and now is the moment, the right moment, to begin the teaching.
Peter reported that traditionally, each time this teaching began, teacher and student would chant the text of the sûtra together. Pronouncing atha brought awareness to this moment, the moment of “now”: everything is here, in the present.
As a student, am I ready to follow the path from atha towards iti?
Am I ready? Am I available for meeting with a teacher, a tradition?
This is the challenge.
Both a state and a path for getting there.
Uniting that in us which belongs to the world and that which is Other.
A discipline which tells us how to be alive and free, which tells us how to find our place in life and how to let ourselves be found.
anusāsana evokes a teaching whose origins precede the author. By using this word, Patañjali is referring to a tradition. The Yoga Sūtra is a distillation of the teachings of a passer.
The teaching of yoga, result of a long tradition, is to be translated into the here and now. We start here and now.
Didn’t Vyāsa* say that “to get to yoga, we must start out with yoga and go through yoga”?
Interpretation and commentary
Now begins the teaching (of) yoga.
With this sentence, full of authority, Patañjali simultaneously introduces the subject, the context and the prerequisite for this study: here begins a three-way relationship, a constellation which guaranties the freedom born from taking a step back.
The free circulation between these three today is an ideal situation for teaching the Yoga Sūtra.
“Now” a living tradition expressed in a text, a teacher who lives this teaching and a student wanting to learn and live it, can all be together.
What is received does not come directly from the teacher, but from the relationship between the teacher and the tradition: the guru is not the origin of everything.
If the student is witness to a free interaction between teacher and text, there is more freedom in his/her relationship with both the teacher and the text. This freedom allows for distinguishing between tradition and the teaching of this tradition and permits formulating questions of personal interest.
By taking support on tradition, teachers don’t have to carry the full weight of what is being taught alone, and in front of the text, they can remain students.
Taking support on the student/text relationship, teachers can understand the meaning of their own role.
Opening a space of freedom in the relationship between student and text, gives the student a subtler knowledge of themselves and of the text.
The teacher and the learner can interpret it, make it their own, be inspired by it, according to their sensitivity, their maturity. This free relationship between teacher and learner allows the text to stay alive.
Yoga, a teaching of freedom.
“This sutra impresses me and questions me. It is radical in its demand. It invites me to be here, ready and available, knowing why I am here. At the same time, it offers support, it describes a situation which allows for study. It calls to me: “Let’s start!”.
My own discovery of yoga was like this. Urgent like a giant wave waking me up. My whole being was shaken by an awareness which was telling me: “you have to go through this, if you want to understand your life, you have to go there!”. Every day, I feel this energy in me. It questions me, and it carries me. It’s like a friend who pushes me to go further, not to accumulate, but to search in silence, to open myself up to life.”
—Peter Hersnack, October 2004