Student Reflections: How the Yoga Sutras has helped my daily life

Written by Stefana Brunetto (teacher trainee 2018)

Meet Stef:

Stef is a current yoga teacher trainee, who is in the final term of her 500 hours of training. 

She is a young, vibrant personal trainer who embarked on her yoga teacher training with the intention to support her clients, by teaching them how to stretch and sharing some of the other benefits she had personally experienced during her own yoga practice!

Stef describes her experience after term 1 as ‘mind blowing,’ the rich yoga history and philosophies offer so much more than just the physical aspect of yoga practice. She is hungry to learn more.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali forms the foundation of all yoga teachings and has been described as the “Heart of Yoga” and a “guidebook to life”.

Here we share Stef’s latest Yoga Sutras assignment on the klesas (the obstacles of the mind) and how it has impacted her daily life. Hearing how the teachings of yoga have impacted the daily lives of our students truly makes our hearts sing! ❤

1. Klesa-s and their effects in our minds and lives – a short summary of my understanding.

YSII.3 – avidya asmita raga dvesha abhinivesha pancha klesha
In chapter II.3 we are formally introduced to the klesa’s. These are the obstacles of the mind that prevent us from reaching Samadhi, fullness of now. These are listed as followed; avidya, ignorance; asmita, ego; raga, attachment; dvesha, aversion; abhinivesha, clinging to life or fear. In the sutras following II.3 Patanjali further explains each of these klesa’s and how they are interrelated. In The Heart of Yoga T.K.V Desikachar presents these klesa’s as a tree.

Avidya is the root of all other klesa’s. In the English language ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge. However in the Sutra’s, Patanjali describes avidya to be a mental state where we believe our knowledge as truth rather than what is the real truth. It is our perception of what we believe to be true and is influenced by past experiences, our social and physical environments and a limited sense of self. We can look at racism as an example of this where you might grow up believing that another race or culture is evil. In your mind, with the information that has been provided to you, that is the truth, however there is good and evil found in all races and cultures.
Asmita, our ego. This is a direct bi-product of ignorance and where we identify more specifically who we are. The ego believes that we are our thought’s, our bodies, our possessions etc, however these are just instruments and do not represent our true selves. Ego is a misidentification of the non-self with the true self and is fed by our ignorance. Not only can ego give our own self a definition but it can also defines others around us. Ego defines who we are by our abundance, what we have done in the past, our jobs, and the list goes on.
Ragah, attachment towards experiences of happiness or pleasure. It is a desire, a yearning, a hunger for past experiences that the mind can have us believe is a pleasurable or happy one. We chase down these experiences or even possessions so that we can replicate this felt sense. It makes us believe that we will constantly experience the same results over and over, when really this is not the case.

Dvesah, aversion towards painful or harmful experiences. It’s the opposite to ragah and like so is influenced by past experiences. We feel anger, hate, frustration and resistance towards these experiences.

Abhinivesah is the fear or death or clinging to life. It is believed that this fear is either irrational or comes from past experiences of death that is hidden deep within the subconscious mind. Ultimately we fear anything could harm us, because in our minds we believe that worst case scenario is death, therefore we begin to have irrational fears about almost anything. When we let our minds wander freely we can travel down dark roads that lead to the end of our lives, giving us another reason why it is so important to control the thoughts of the mind.

2. Discuss how the study of Yoga Sutras has been relevant and/or helpful to you in your own experiences and understanding of Yoga practice and daily life.

Two words, EYE OPENING. When I first started this journey my knowledge about Yoga was limited to asana’s and an understanding that the breath was important. There may have been mentioning’s of the Yoga Sutras during my time in classes, but it didn’t stick or maybe I wasn’t ready to hear it at the time. After the first term I was mind blown by the rich history and philosophy that was gifted to us and amazed that this isn’t what is shared among all yoga classes. Why are we just presented with asana’s? Why are we constantly sold a full body stretch class with meditation at the end? I was frustrated to say the least after finishing my first term.

Now I have been given a snippet of the Yoga Sutra’s and I have one word in response; HUNGRY. I want to know more, I want to learn more. Just from increasing my own studies into the klesa’s has given me the ability to have a better understanding of not only my own mind, but that of other peoples, particularly those that are closest to me. It’s also provided me with a sense of freedom where I didn’t know I had felt trapped before, a freedom from own thoughts. I used to believe that I was defined by my thoughts however after a little more insight provided by the Yoga Sutra’s, I’ve come to realise this isn’t true. This is not who I am as my asmita would have me believe.

Moving into term two I began to realise something (and may have experienced an “aha”moment whilst writhing this), that this blueprint into the mind and how to overcome suffering we are provided through the Yoga Sutra’s, is only for people that want and are ready to hear it. We are sold Yoga through the body because that is what Western Culture is obsessed with so we start with asana’s. Then we begin to drop nuggets of information during our practice. Those that are ready to hear it will soak it in and perhaps go in search for more, and those that aren’t will let drop in and then fall straight back out. I believe that has been my own experience. Yoga in the beginning gave my body a sense of peace that I hadn’t felt before and the more I practiced, the more peace I felt and a sense of openness, until eventually I was ready to know more and signed up to do my teacher training. And now we are here. “Athayoganusasanam” – Now, the teachings of yoga.  

Thanks fort sharing Stef ❤

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