I decided to sit down and read The Yoga Sutras the other day. I realized that I had never read them all the way through in one sitting before. This really shouldn’t be that difficult considering that The Yoga Sutras are actually like a recipe book.

There are 195 steps, which are divided up into four Padas/Chapters. I have attempted to read through this historical recipe book for enlightenment in the past, but I typically find myself sidetracked by the commentary on one of the aphorisms, or I just get tired, and I fail to make it all the way through.

This time I was determined.

This is what I love about The Yoga Sutras. They start out simple. The very first ingredient is water; it is an everyday necessity!

l.1 Atha Yoganusasanam.

Translation: Now we begin the practice of yoga.

If you want to bake a loaf of enlightenment you can’t put it off until tomorrow. Turn on the oven, get out your mixing bowls, and start cooking right here and now with this very breath.

The second ingredient defines the first ingredient. It is the H2O. If the first sutra/ thread/ ingredient, sets up what you are going to be making, the second sutra defines what it will look like.

l.2 Yogas citta-vrtti-nirodha.

Translation: Yoga is the quieting of the fluctuations of the mind.

The next logical question is, why would I want to do that? This is described in the third line of text… And so it goes throughout the manual. It is a drum-roll of answers being questioned and questions being answered.

What I found particularly inspiring on this last read-through The Yoga Sutras was the third Pada. It expounds upon the mystical powers/siddhis that human beings are capable of. The way I see it is this: Most of us know how to drive a car. We get in, turn on the engine, put it in drive, and hit the gas. There are all sorts of great gadgets like brakes, blinkers, radios, cruise control and windshield wipers. These things come standard in any Toyata, Chevy or Mercedez. So what if you happened to find yourself in some sort of a James Bond mobile? Would it be possible that you wouldn’t even know that your car could actually fly? Become invisible? Travel faster than the speed of light? Coast on water? Because you didn’t know where to look for these buttons and you were satisfied with seat-warmers?

According to the third chapter of The Yoga Sutras, these bodies that we are inhabiting may have some extra special features that we aren’t aware of, but with a little searching we may discover that we all have a little super-power within us just waiting to be discovered…

The siddhi, super-power, that I have been focusing on in my own practice and in class lately feels the most accessible and relevant one to start with. It is the 29th sutra of the 3rd pada.

III.29 Nabhi-cakre kaya-vyuha-jnanam

Translation: By fixing the mind and meditating on the wisdom inherent within the naval plexus of the body comes knowledge of the arrangement of the body.

I find that this sutra has tremendous value for our asana focused yoga practices. If we can concentrate our attention on our naval center throughout our practice we can gain a better understanding about how the body is organized. We don’t have to wonder about our alignment, and whether or not it is proper because we will feel it. Focusing our attention primarily on the naval center can give us a starting point.

There are lots of ways that we can concentrate our attention on our core. Some of the results will lead to stronger abdominal muscles and healthy organs. These results can be achieved in any core centered workout class.  I think what is so appealing about a yoga practice is that the ways that we concentrate on our naval plexus will lead not only to a strong physique, but also an inherent understanding of how the entire body is organized.

To learn these techniques, come to class.

Peace and Love,



About Joyce Englander

I teach weekly yoga classes in New York City, which focus on moving mindfully and gracefully with the breath. I believe that learning yoga is similar to learning a language, and the more you are around it the more fluent you become. This blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts and re-visit lessons from class; to create a bridge for students to translate their classroom experience into real life. I am interested in how practicing yoga can help to improve people's lives and reduce needless suffering.
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