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The Secret of the Yoga Sutra: A Q&A with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

After 35 years of teaching in the West, Sanskrit scholar and spiritual teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait has published his long-awaited commentary on the Yoga Sutra—the seminal text on yoga practice and philosophy. His new book, The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, is the first practitioner-oriented commentary that is fully grounded in the living tradition of the Himalayan masters. Tigunait, who is lecturing at The Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena on September 18, 2014 from 7:00-9:00 P.M. as part of his 71- city lecture & book tour, recently welcomed our inquiry into the deeper dimensions of yoga and how to apply its ancient wisdom to your modern life.

Q: So what exactly is the Yoga Sutra?

PRT: The Yoga Sutra is a book of yoga philosophy. It is a book of practice. And it is a book of self-realization. It was written 2,200 years ago, when a great master named Patanjali gathered the best aspects of yoga and delineated, in a step-by-step fashion, exactly what yoga is and how to practice it.

Q: What can modern students learn from the Yoga Sutra?

PRT: When you practice the kind of yoga described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, you will experience what it’s like to be healthy, happy, peaceful, confident, and energetic. The literal meaning of “yoga” is “union,” “integration,” “reconnection.” But in the context of practice, yoga is a way of gaining access to your own inner luminosity and becoming established in your essential self.

By studying the Yoga Sutra, you will learn how to cultivate a clear, calm, and tranquil mind; how to expand the immense power of your mind; and how to begin unveiling, layer after layer, the mysteries of the universe within you and outside you.

Q: Why are its teachings so crucial today?

PRT: Because the human mind is scattered. We have become negligent about our distractions, inertia, confusion, doubt, fear, and anger. But humans have been riding a roller coaster of ups and downs for thousands of years. The yoga tradition, which started at least 5,000 years ago and has continued without interruption, has recorded all of the problems that humans face, and the methods and techniques to overcome those problems.

The Yoga Sutra contains the solutions.

Q: What role does asana play in yoga practice?

PRT: Asana is a very important part of life. It keeps you healthy, strong, and energetic. And it enables you to discover and reclaim the innate wisdom of your body. But it is only after you rediscover the self-luminous nature of your own mind that you will begin to experience the true power of asana. That discovery comes from the meditative aspect of yoga.

Q: What inspired you to publish a commentary on the Yoga Sutra after 35 years of teaching in the West?

PRT: The Yoga Sutra is a compendium of a vast field of knowledge and wisdom, techniques and methodologies for discovering our multi-dimensional life. It is the source wisdom for all schools and traditions of yoga. We need to bring the spiritual dimension back into yoga and encourage students to look for teachings and practices that will take them to the next level. That’s why I have realized that I should share whatever I have learned in the last 35 years through this commentary, The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, and by teaching and interacting with students.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish through your Secret of The Yoga Sutra book tour and courses?

My wish is that the Yoga Sutra brings the same level of transformation to other people as it did to me. In order to make that wish become a reality, my vision is to bring the Yoga Sutra to people’s doorsteps, making this knowledge available to them on many levels and from many perspectives [through a summer lecture & book tour, online study groups, and a four-part master course on the Yoga Sutra that students can take in person or online].

My vision is that the yoga community, the scientific community, the medical community, and the health community take from the Yoga Sutra what is useful for them, conduct more research, assimilate the knowledge into their existing practice, and take their own field of knowledge to the next level. My interest is to demonstrate and support how you can embrace the teachings of the Yoga Sutra in your own personal practice for self-improvement and self-empowerment; how you can accelerate your quest for total well-being and spiritual unfoldment.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on September 3, 2014

The Deal with Stress

July 29, 2014

Stressed? We are constantly dealing with the business and responsibility of life as it is today. Driving, cell phones and work, not to mention juggling kids, keeping a home and the news, can all leave us completely stressed out!

The way the nervous system works, we have the fight or flight mode (sympathetic nervous system), where we are on alert and ready for task or survival. The flight response is triggered by a perception of a threat or by a thought. The parasympathetic nervous system or resting/digesting mode, is when we are calm and assimilating the nutrients from our food.

But this does not happen just because we are eating. In fact, we may be eating on the move. If we are not getting adequate nourishment from our food – yet we are eating – it could be because we are not in digestion mode. This can cause all kinds of problems in our systems.

Watching a suspenseful action movie while eating will not allow the system to calm down and digest properly. Because the food is not completely digested and we are rushing around eating a salad in the car or grabbing a latte on the run, the organs get taxed. The kidneys cannot do the proper filtration job, the adrenals get stressed because they are being overused to produce adrenaline to keep combating stress. We can develop headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, anxiety, agitation, IBS, adrenal fatigue and many more, worse conditions.

The more time we spend in the sympathetic mode, the more we get used to it. It is then harder to switch to resting mode where our bodies need to spend time!

Yoga and meditation can help us combat the effects of our hectic lifestyles. Restorative yoga can put us right at ease. We need breath practices that we can learn to do anytime to help us from jumping into flight mode. Meditation can help us to spend more time in the calm/resting mode during waking hours and train our systems to stay calm.

Sometimes we can’t even get a good night sleep because we are fighting our battles in our dreams. That is because the mind is still thinking those un-restful thoughts.

But yoga, meditation and breath practice can help us get a better night’s rest. I promise! Try our Restorative class on Sundays at 5:00 or a Gentle class first thing in the morning. Many of your little ailments might just fade away as you get used to leading a calmer, less stressful life.

See you in class.

Namasté, René

  Posted on July 29, 2014

Come Back Again

June 26, 2014

When I first started yoga it took me a while to get into it. I dabbled around trying to find the right teacher. The very first one kept me away for a few years.

But when the right teacher and the right time were there – it was magic.

I went every chance I could. Even with 3 young kids at home. I hated when my teacher had a sub! I hated anything that got in the way of my class. My perfect world was 3-4 times a week. But then the sub was there for 3 weeks. I stopped after one week. I went back a few times, then I got a cold, then life happened and one day I was saying – “wow, I haven’t been to yoga in such a long time! I used to love it!” So I went back.

I went “back” again and again.

The thing is – even if you are not exactly where you left off, your body remembers. It groans a little sometimes, but you get happy again. It’s not the physical effort that really hooks us. It’s the increased vitality and happiness, the sense of inner calm and wisdom.

We hear it all the time: “my family made me come.” And then we stop for vacation. We think the feeling can’t go away this time. We will do yoga on vacation. And then, a few months later, we come back again.

What ever you are doing in your life – it gets better with yoga. But sometimes we need breaks. So don’t feel bad if you have been absent. Get your mat out of the trunk. We can always tell if it’s been in there all rolled up and stuck together or unused in the back of your closet. But get it out again. Your smile will be so worth it!

I’ll see you in class – again.

Namasté, René

  Posted on June 26, 2014