One of our homework assignments was to read the first Yoga Sutra, 1.1 and comment on what relevance the term "atha" has for us. HERE is an online reference our teacher gave us or we could use any book or readings we had.
Sutra 1.1: “Now begins the scientific discipline of yoga.” (Atha yoga anushasanam)
One meaning of Atha is "now" as in this very moment. It means to channel our energy is to be truly present. BE HERE NOW (Ram Dass). It also means being ready, or readying for the present moment. Perhaps that implies preparing for self-discovery or to figure out what yoga really means to us. Another way of putting it would also be commitment. Being fully committed to this journey.
Of course this first Sutra 1.1 might just be telling the audience something as simple as, "okay now we get a look at what yoga is" and then they get on with explaining yoga, just like we teach kids how to write explanatory paragraphs. First sentence is to tell the audience what you're going to tell them. Then you tell them what you need to say, and then at the end you say okay now I've told you whatever it is I had to tell you. It might just be that prosaic.... It might just be a topic sentence.
I prefer to think of it as being here now. Here now are going to start yoga.
I have spent a lot of time this week reading about yoga online and in our homework readings and various books we have for class. I think one of the key components that has come out this week is that yoga is individual. Everybody will experience it differently. You start at whatever point of experience and practice you have. And through all the various experiences of yoga, you only experience yoga by doing yoga.
One of my favorite art journal teachers used to say "Start by starting." I think this is good for yoga too. A lot of people say they can't do yoga because they aren't flexible. Well yoga can help you be flexible, you don't have to start out flexible. Start where you are and just let it happen. Start by starting. If you're feeling wobbly on the yoga mat, that's okay start there. We present with your wobble and go from there. Today might be a wobbly day. That's okay. Or you might find like I did earlier today at yoga practice, that I started out wobbly but it didn't last. Suddenly I noticed I wasn't wobbling. Of course as soon as I noticed that, I lost my balance. That's how it works. I was no longer being present I suppose, but looking over the last few minutes, and I lost balance. Nothing major, it was just tree pose, and luckily even trees bend in the wind. I was no longer an oak tree, but maybe a little willow, and I was really bending in the wind.