This is the beginning of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This is one of the foundational texts for Yoga and is worthy of study for all students and teachers of Yoga.
These Sutras are pithy and hold layers of meaning within each word. I am not a Sanskrit scholar. I am a devoted Sadhaka ( someone who follows a sadhana, path of practice) with a desire to help others on their Yoga journey.
I humbly do my best to offer a meaningful and helpful translation as was taught to me by my teachers Ruth Diggins and Kausthub Desikachar, in upholding the lineage of Krishnamacharya Yoga.
You would be right to assume that the first word of a serious text is important. It is. Atha sets the tone. It has many meanings, one of which is auspiciousness. It is indicating from the get-go that what follows is special, it is auspicious. Begin your Yoga with a feeling of what you are undertaking is significant. Begin it in the right way.
Atha means here, now, in this present moment. My teacher said that if we can do that, be here now in a sustained way that IS Yoga.
A further meaning of Atha is readiness. This is saying that there needs to be a certain readiness from the student as well as from the teacher to begin this journey together. Without this from both parties Yoga won’t happen. So what does readiness look like? Sometimes we think we are keen, we think we want to do something. And we naturally assume that if a teacher is offering a class that they are ready to teach. But is this the case? Well the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, another foundational text on Yoga has clear guidelines on what readiness looks like. I will go into that in the next article.