Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras For Modern Day Life: Karma is not a Bitch

Yoga Sutras 2:13 So long as the cause exists, it will bear fruits — such as rebirth, a long or a short life, and the experiences of pleasure and of pain


Defining the Sutra:

If your actions have not yet born fruit, you do not have to reap the consequences. As long as you do nothing to get rid of the Karma, you will experience rebirth, long or short life and pleasure or pain depending on what the Karma is.

Modern Day Application:

The process of Yoga is the process of releasing ourselves from Karmas that have not started to come to pass. Lets use the common example of an electric fan. It won’t be exact but you may get the picture. Inside the electric fan are the components to make the blade spin. If we don’t plug it in and feed it with electricity, the blades don’t spin. This Sutra talks about this type of Karma.  It is there but we have not powered it up yet.  If we are mechanically capable, we can take the fan apart so that that blades will never move.  That is what we are doing with Yoga. Once we plug the fan in, even if we turn it off, the blades continue to move for a few moments. This Karma has to be fulfilled because it is already in motion and it is a different Karma.

Patanjali defines Yoga as, “the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind stuff.” This is not as simple as stopping yourself from thinking by taking a Yoga class. This is like plugging in the fan and sticking something in it to temporarily stop the blades. The Yoga has to go deeper. The fan has to be completely dismantled. If the fan is not dismantled, there is always the possibility that it can get plugged in or that the Karma will come to fruition.

Distracting ourselves from thinking by putting our leg behind our heads, music, heat and a lively Yoga class are  temporary measures. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali tells us that when disturbed by negative thoughts, one should cultivate the opposite. The key words here, that let us know that liberation has not yet been found are “disturbed” and “cultivate” . When the seer abides in this own true nature, which is what Patanjali lists as the hallmark of liberation, there is nothing to cultivate and there is no disturbance for one abides or stays rooted in the Self. Once this happens, the stored Karmas are released.

Why Is It Important?

The cycle of pain and suffering will continue until we stop it. Yoga can stop it but it has to go deep. It must be more than just 2 hours on the mat. It must be more then just an hour on the meditation cushion. It has to be 24/7.  It has to be a lifestyle. A way of being.

Distracting ourselves from our thoughts is not the same as “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah” or “cessating the fluctuations of the mind stuff”. In the modern Yoga world, this verse is often taken out of context. The listing of the fluctuations or vrittis is super important and takes away the gross oversimplification of Yoga that makes it so palatable to modern students.  If the Yoga does not go deep, when the emotions or mind is triggered, it all comes flooding back because it was not gone.  It was just hidden under sweat, $100 Yoga pants and a Brene’ Brown quote. The Karma is there and it will come for you. It is never a Bitch. It is simply whatever you created.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@shannasmallyoga.com.