Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Talking about The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from a very broad perspective within my writings, using the way in which my perspective is of these sutras to hopefully give you some form of an insight as to how the traditional text of The Yoga Sutras of Patanali apply to this day and age and how they can help improve and benefit within our day to day living whether or not you practice the "Yoga" which is taught to us today.
Sutra II.47 "prayatna saithilyananta samapattibhyam"
"By relaxation of effort and by total absorption of oneself into a steady object, posture is mastered"
Translation by : The Yoga Institute, Santa Cruz, Mumbai, India.
I really like this sutra as it is a contradiction and all contradictions which you understand but cant explain are my favourite!
I understand because I have felt it, I understand because I have lived it within my postures and the obtainment of them...
This relaxed effort came to me so clearly only again recently while practising Astanga Primary series and i thought i would share with you my insights .
During my intense practices I would always ask myself throughout"Does this series get easier?" and actually firstly always there will remain within this practice constant effort and there is constant progression within this particular style of Yoga but, there is this point when the effort becomes that of a relaxed nature and that is when one is established within the positioning, holding and breathing while in the pose.
So this I believe to be one of the best examples and one of my clearest experiences when it comes to this sutra for me.
There have been times throughout my personal practice that I have taken time in the mornings before work to complete a week of Mysore style practices with my teacher.
Other times where I went hard core and spent a few months in Mysore practising with a different teacher and finally, the most recent and where this shift actually happened was in Goa with my Teacher Balu.
I was practising with him a few times per week. I was attending his morning lead classes from November through till March this year and it was actually here that the realisation of what real relaxed effort felt like.
Everything that we do takes effort. But it is when we are first taking upon ourselves the task of doing something that we have never done before of course the effort is not that of a relaxed manner.
Relaxed is efficiency, its knowing how to do something so well that it almost becomes second nature.
Relaxed in attitude with the surrounding world; when you are in a place in your life that you have experienced so much that there is to be experience that things don't give you the anxiety they used to; crowds no longer bother you; new environments don't get to you; you no longer have that uncomfortable energy exertion leaving the effort of being in a new environment far from that relaxed feeling.
But here what we find is the more and more that we experience we start to find that we have come across many things and situations and scenarios before or at least similar and therefor you become un-phased by most other equal or slightly different situations.
In this context I like to use the example of an old wise woman - Its still an effort to live, because of course everything is an effort daily, however she is relaxed, she is wise, she has a broader perspective and she carries on living with no real opinion, no real concerns, nothing really makes her too excited or too uncomfortable as she has "seen it all" and she continues living with this kind of relaxed effort.
Another way to look at this 'relaxed effort' is when one first decides to start running; the sweat is pouring down our face; we cant breathe; we think we will never make it to that first mile; we swear we will never do it again. But with perseverance we carry on, we keep going. We run longer with the same amount of 'not so relaxed' effort but after a while, maybe three or so months, that mile is done with relaxed effort.
Its at this point then we push to progress further. We go through the effort again with no relaxation accompanying it for a while until once again we build ourselves up and now those 3 miles a relaxed effort run.
Like the effort one first puts in when they first pick up a guitar - I like to use the guitar as this instrument example as they, in my eyes, are one of the coolest however this applies to all instruments and all musicians in their obtainment to master their tool.
I used to watch in awe guitarist on the television like Santana, Slash & Jimi Hendrix and I would have my jaw on the floor not believing how they were playing the instrument they way in which they were.
But learning such things like this sutra and experiencing learning new skills and practices that now that owe jaw dropping feeling has shifted into somewhat of a admiration instead for the amount of time the musician has spent becoming efficient in his chosen discipline, in his relaxed effort obtained channelling through him to and through the instrument.
The amount of effort and time that has been spent figuring out completely, or at least almost, the workings of this one instrument and all of its offerings...
So really when Patanjali explains this even though it is written about asana in particular what is beautiful is that it can be applied to any task, it can be applied to any effort within life, within living and within what we want to achieve to the point that it has been achieved and we now find ourselves in a place where we are completely and totally efficient in what we are doing.
With what ever it is we are doing when we are at the point of being established in what we are doing its that relaxed effort Patanjali is talking of in this sutra.
If its playing an instrument absorbed in the instrument fully. In the act of running fully. When cooking or efficient in cleaning your home. When singing and you become absorbed in the melody.
This is the space or the depth of action where meditation comes into the action. When we obtain efficiency, when we obtain the relaxed effort in the action taking place, when we are thinking of nothing else, knowing nothing else in that moment but that object even if your body is that object of efficiency and absorption.
You see the thing is what has been taught about Yoga in this day and age is only the surface of what is to be learned and experienced, only a few particular areas are discussed upon, as the real essence of Yoga is anything that you choose to set yourself to fully, completely, with all the efforts of your potential.
Yoga is full absorption within that task. Yoga is efficiency in task.
For the Hatha Yogi this sutra applies as absorption and relaxed effort in the posture, a space where your body has figured it all out. Where the body has obtained this manipulated state with ease, obtained a certain gesture to the point of perfection physically and mentally to reap all the benefits the pose has to offer.
But this sutra can be applied to any individual, in any task one wants to take up or become better in.
Its about doing the chosen task or practice and doing it to the point that you become one with the task, with the duty, with the instrument, with the challenge, with the hobby. Where everything else for those moments cease to exist.
This is you practising 'Your Yoga' in daily activity, daily happenings. Where you become your most efficient in the task at hand. The task has quality, the task is done to its fullest, the task itself is for filling its purpose fully through you.
The result and the expression of this relaxed effort in task is beautiful, impressive and breathtaking. This is how we create so much beauty, this is how we break world records over and over, this is how those win competitions and create outstanding results, wonderful inventions, new ideas from craftsmen to athletes to pastry chefs to teachers.
These people are living their Yoga in their chosen task where they have put in the hours to obtain their version of relaxed effort in task.
"Relaxation leads to perfection."
Its about finding your Yoga, in your chosen practices. Where you become absorbed and so efficient that it becomes that of relaxed effort.
Enjoy striving for your perfection in whatever you are putting your mind to. This is your Yoga.