Today is Saturday and our day of rest from asana practice. One thing that I really love about the Ashtanga method is that it is recommended to take at least one day off per week and to not practice on the new or full moon. Sometimes people can get obsessed with the asana practice and perhaps if this rule was not in place some people would hammer out an intense practice every single day. Personally that would not be an issue for me. The fact that there is a prescribed 6 day a week practice schedule is something that takes a lot of time to really cultivate and maintain. I also think that no practice on moon days, the new and full moon, is the best invention since sliced bread. I adhere to the Saturday off idea mainly because that is what I learned from Guruji and Tim, but it is good to note that you can make that day any day you choose. Yet still the 6 days, “you do!”
When Tamara and I went to Mysore we asked the assistance of someone to help us find a room to rent while we were there. The gentle Indian man said “I can’t help you tomorrow because it is moon day, yet the following day I can.” In this case he was not an “asana” practitioner (I don’t think) but he took moon days off from work anyhow. This blew our mind. We had never come across this concept before. When we were practicing Bikram yoga never once was this notion mentioned, nor was there any talk of breathing either but that is an entirely different story. I have to admit that right away I thought that moon days were a brilliant concept regardless that it was a foreign idea. Now as a 6 day a week practitioner (as best I can as a family man), I think moon days are incredible. Now every two weeks, you get a day to rest your body as well as the Saturday. I think that the element of the fixed day off one day per week, combined with the extra two moon days off on alternating intervals, creates a variation of change within a consistent structure.
If you don’t adhere to this rule you probably are thinking, “Todd is getting a little out there.” I promise though that if you try this it will seem like the most remarkable concept ever created. That is little background story of why then, today we took the morning off to rest. We had Teacher Training session today from 1 PM to 6 PM yet Tim still honored this tradition by giving us a five hour tour of the third chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It was remarkable as those of you who have met Tim can imagine. In his First and Second Series Teacher Trainings he covers the first and second chapters of the Yoga Sutras. So this was the first time I have had the privilege of having him go sutra by sutra and take the time to allow us to share our thoughts about what they could potentially mean. Reading the Yoga Sutras can be a lifetime of study because they are challenging to decipher. The Sanskrit language allows multiple translations for every word so that over the years many translators have given different meanings for each sutra. There is usually a fairly common thread amongst most meanings, non the less, they can be quite confusing to contemplate at first glance. That is what it is so interesting to have someone who has been contemplating this over for some thirty years to give their take on their meaning. Since meeting Tim and having been inspired to try this myself. I have enjoyed this process even though sometimes it just seems so perplexing. The cool thing is that the theory informs the practice and the practice informs the theory. How I viewed the Yoga Sutras and their interpretations has changed radically over the years. As I learn a new concept from them I try to apply it to my yoga and meditation practice. As my yoga and meditation practice evolves my understanding of the meaning behind the words also transforms.
We covered a lot today yet there was one that I particularly enjoyed. Sutra III.27 states Bhuvana jnanam surye samyamat. It can be translated as: By samyama on the Sun comes knowledge of the entire universe. The word samyama means the “catch-all” process of concentration, meditation and absorption (dharana, dhyana and samadhi). Tim stated, “The sun is the eye of the world. If we become one with the eye of the world we can see all things.” I really liked this view point. The concept of the sun being the eye of the world reminds me of the idea that stars are just the holes to heaven (Jack Johnson fans will catch that one). To keep this practical I feel this sutra is beneficial because it encourages us to open our minds to greater possibility. There is the potential that we can learn from the Yoga Sutras and experience for ourselves the liberation that the great sages have been trying to verbalize and describe for eons.