In my first yoga teacher training, we were given a copy of “The Yoga Sutras,” Patanjali’s 196 lessons for living a full life. Written more than 2,000 years ago, the sutras are the philosophical guideposts that underlie the physical practice most associated with yoga today. The teachings are broken into four books (or padas).
We touched on the highlights familiar to most yoga teachers and students: now we begin; balance effort with ease; yoga is the cessation of the chatter of the mind; and, of course, the yamas and the niyamas.
I couldn’t wait to study the sutras more and thread these lessons into my own practice and my classes. But when I went back to the sutras after training, I found that the text felt somewhat academic and monastic. I tried a couple of different translations over the years, but many of the lessons still felt as far away as the stars.
On the surface, today’s modern world doesn’t have a lot in common with a monk living in isolation thousands of years ago. Is there an app to help me find my true nature? How can we practice non-attachment (aparigraha) when Amazon makes it so easy to consume?
In “Living the Sutras: a Guide to Yoga Wisdom Beyond the Mat,” authors Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden put a modern-day spin on the ancient text, including journal prompts to inspire inquiry about how to apply the sutras to daily life.
DiNardo and Pearce-Hayden are writers, yoga practitioners, teachers and studio owners. With “Living the Sutras” they aim to bridge the gap between the ancient theory and modern-day application. This slim, practical book is for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the “Yoga Sutras,” and apply the teachings to their lives and to their interactions with others.
For example, in writing about sutra 2:4 (“misperception is the root cause of all the obstacles that cause pain”), DiNardo and Pearce-Hayden write, “Because we’re out of sync with our true nature, we only do things that fit into who we think we are.”
Indeed. Our Facebook and Instagram posts curate the personality we want to show publicly, but mask the actual loneliness and isolation in the universe of social media.
“Living the Sutras” covers the first two padas (Samadhi Pada and Sadhana Pada). You can read through the book chronologically, or use it to focus on a particular lesson. Yoga teachers will find the book to be a handy reference and guidepost for working the sutras into their classes and inspiring students to learn more about yoga philosophy as they stand in Warrior II.
Unlike other copies that may be stiff from lack of use, “Living the Sutras” is sure to have many page corners turned down and notes in the margins.
“Living the Sutras: A Guide to Yoga Wisdom Beyond the Mat” By Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden (Shambhala, Boulder 2018).
Kathy Hisey Baum is a freelance writer and yoga teacher in Denver, CO. You can find her writing at wellbeingprime.com.