From the Sept/2010 issue of Common Ground Magazine (written by Jill Abelson):
Kshana tat kramayoh samyamad vivekajam jnanam —Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Chapter 3, Verse 53
(Translation: Concentrating carefully on single moments in a sequence brings us discriminative knowledge and therefore freedom, liberation.)
If you’ve ever wondered what vinyasa yoga is all about, this shiny little gem of a verse is your guide. Not only that, it suggests how to order our lives so that the outcome is exactly what we wish. Kshana means “a single, precious moment in time.” Kramayoh means “an uninterrupted, ordered sequence of events from beginning to end.” Samyamad means “focused concentration, meditation.” And vivekajam plus jnanam is “discriminative knowledge.” Patanjali is saying that when we pay conscious attention to every moment in time — that is, when we don’t miss a beat — we can direct the flow of a sequence in an artful and meaningful way.
In a vinyasa yoga class, we practice a sequence of asanas as one continuous movement from start to finish. Every movement links to an inhalation or an exhalation. The underlying intention for our practice drives the whole process forward. There’s no stopping or pausing between movements. The whole practice flows seamlessly. We’re so “in the flow” and conscious of what we’re doing, how we place things — the body, the breath, the mind — that we seem to transcend time and learn a lot about ourselves in the process.
Unconscious placement is what happens when we rush our way through class, space out, doubt ourselves, hang back, worry about our dripping sweat, grab our water bottle 50 times, lose steadiness of our breath, examine our toes, or ever forget what brings us to the yoga mat. Imagine you’re driving to the destination of a lifetime and do all these things in your car. The journey would be terrible, and eventually you’d drive into a ditch.
To me, this sutra implies that life should unfold like the perfect vinyasa krama. Weave together days, months, and years with conscious intention and focus, and happiness and ease result. We practice this natural, intelligent unfolding in a vinyasa yoga class, and the whole experience becomes a metaphor for our approach to life.
Jill Abelson (Janaki) re-located with her husband to SF from Washington DC, where she taught yoga alongside a career in environmental advocacy. Jill teaches at Yoga Tree and is a frequent contributor to Common Ground.