The best time is now

Patanjali wrote in Yoga Sutra 1.1 atha yoga anushasanam, which can be translated into

“Now, begins the study and practice of Yoga”.

 

Atha, referring to ‘now’, also implies a transition to this practice and pursuit. The fact is, the English language does not have sufficient eloquence to capture the essence of this beautiful sentence. In a raw sense, the sentence implies that after our many actions in life, and whatever preparatory practices we might have done, now, we have arrived at this auspicious stage of desire and commitment towards Self-realization, the highest goal of Yoga.

 

To me, the focus of that statement is about living in the ‘now’, which is simply staying in the present moment.

 

It is a concept that I learnt in class today, in my fourth consecutive day of the Teachers’ Training Course. The day has been especially tiring as I struggled with the asanas in my fatigued muscles and lethargic body, particularly my painful hamstrings and shoulders. But as I am consolidating my thoughts for the day, one incident—or more appropriately put, one moment—is especially striking. It is that moment when I found my mind drifting away upon Paalu’s instructions to go into Kapotsana.

 

Then, Paalu had demonstrated the asana with the student sitting directly opposite me. As she executed the pose with relative ease, I remember feeling envious and thinking ‘I used to be able to do that. I probably can’t now. What a pity.’ It is amazing at what speed the mind can drift away. I found myself thinking about the days when I had no trouble executing Kapotsana. That was possibly four years back, before I fell down the flight of stairs, and intense backbends hurt so much after that that I grew fearful of them. And yes, the fear is still present today.

 

Very quickly, we were all instructed to try the pose. That kind of captured my mind back into the class. I decided that I shall just disregard all those past experiences and just proceed with the flow of the asana.

 

With some help, I was able to go into the pose. Was I fearful of hurting my back? Yes. Was I nostalgic about my past? Probably yes. But on top of all that fear and anxiety, I was focused on these thoughts: I will try to do the asana; it didn’t matter whether I can execute the final pose; I will not let my past experiences bother me. I shall just try it now and see how it goes.

 

As I reflect now, clearly, the ‘now’ then was the turning point.

 

Had I continued to dwell on my past ability, had I decided to stay in awe of the demo, had I remained captured in my fear, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do the asana.  Henceforth, translating today’s experience into my teaching: it is pertinent I share with my students this idea of ‘now’.

 

I must share with them how living in the present beats brooding over the past and dreaming about the future, because without this consciousness, there is not only no future, there is also always only constant regret. I must also share with them that Yoga is not about the final pose, but more about the process of trying to get there. I must share with them the importance of not compromising one’s alignment to attain the final pose. I must share with them about how breathing can help to still the mind and stay in the present moment.

 

As much as I teach Yoga asanas to the students, I hope to share with them the process of the asana. The process which envelopes the contentment of who one is (acknowledging one’s limitations and celebrating one’s strengths). The process which requires enthusiasm and aspiration. The process which one surrenders to the flow.

 

Most importantly, the process of realizing that the best time is ‘now’.