The bad news: enlightenment does not come easy. The good news: the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a step-by-step guidebook, can get us there. In particular, Sutra 1:20 outlines what Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar describes as the yoga “vitamins” to fortify ourselves for the diligent practice of disrupting the deep whirling vortices of self-defeating and self-limiting beliefs. The vitamins walk us through a clear evolution of our psychological immune system to thrive in the healthy and pure involution of going back to ourselves, our birthright.
Sutra 1:20 Shraddhaviryasmrtisamadhiprajnapurvaka itaresam
Faith, courage, memory, consistent integration, and inherent wisdom precede wholeness.
Shraddha, from shrat (to assure, truth) and dha (to adhere, that which holds truth) classically translates to faith. This is the faith of deep belief in yourself and what you do, a trust and conviction sattvic in nature: steady, sure, stable. This devotion is an action, a practice of continuously recommitting. In order to embark fully on the transformation offered by the practice of yoga, Patanjali implores one must build all on this bedrock of faith. We may struggle immensely with even this first step – we doubt, we hurt in the wounds of unresolved trauma, we grow preoccupied with all the demands of simply living in this attention-grabbing world. Faith here involves the choice to ardently believe there is another way.
From this trust springs confidence and wholeheartedness, the fertile grounds for the second attitude.Virya – the courage of one acting with deep conviction. If faith is the food, virya is the energy and vitality powered by the sustenance of shraddha. The twin pillars of shraddha together with virya build a scaffolding of resolute behavior and fortified power of action to change. Courage is necessary to ask the hard questions, to examine self-defeating behaviors, and to shift into the right gear for the terrain ahead. Courage rises up to defeat doubt. Strengthen the tenacity to back up your faith out in the world when the same patterns assert themselves over and over again. Energize to be accountable, to course-correct again and again, and build the momentum necessary to keep taking the high road.
The third vitamin reinforces this momentum as it builds.Smrti – the remembrance or repeated recollection of the devotion to involution. In daily distractions, one can so easily lose the thread. The discipline keeping the needle threaded, smrti mindfully connects each moment as it comes to the greater vision. Smrti also encompasses the remembrance of the lineage of realized beings and of ancestors who conspired to deliver you to this moment in time. In one practice of Atma Tattva Avalokanam, the very first thing we do upon waking is turn back inward to pause and remember our true essence or that-ness. We listen to the unstruck anahata and go forward into the day vibrant in this remembrance of Self. We might refresh this connection throughout the day so as not to forget in the myriad of distractions.
The more consistently we remember, the closer we get to living in the fourth vitamin:
Samadhi, consistent integration. Given enormous significance as an entire limb of the Ashtanga Yoga system, samadhi is the experience of concentration continuously practiced as a meditation of living. We wholeheartedly embrace our lives and do not banish any aspect or close ourselves off from integrating even great adversity. In continuous integration, we learn to process trauma, to release stuck stress, to identify unhealthy patterns of thinking, behavior, and movement; and to be awake and alive in our wholeness, or the fifth realization.
Prajna means inherent wisdom. We so easily trust ourselves last. We share every meme published by others as if they hold authority on our own life experiences. Your personal meme-maker, prajna holds the knowledge and authority you bring forth out of your experience and expertise as a human being. The discriminative knowledge revealed from the fertile ground fortified by the yoga vitamins, you can trust this discernment because it comes purely and directly out of you. It contains within it the relief of coming back to your Self, and in so doing loosening attachments and aversions of your former suffering person.
Through this evolution of establishing our faith, courage, remembrance, consistent integration, and inherent wisdom, we return to the involution of inner awareness. Patanjali, per usual, describes a tangible process to fortify ourselves for the work of freedom from the distortions obscuring our wholeness. As the Dalai Lama teaches: “Naturally arisen innermost awareness naturally exists within you; it is naturally there, not newly generated or constructed by superficial conditions.” Patanjali would agree.
Raised on the saltless sea shores of vast Lake Superior, Miriam (E-RYT500, YACEP) grew up understanding how disturbances on the surface shift, coming and going, but stillness in the deep is constant. From twelve years building a bilingual K-12 school in the Caribbean to cave diving around the world, Miriam uses the tools of yoga to return her to that stillness. Back in Duluth now, Miriam is delighted to represent Svalja Yoga as Director of Operations, with extensive training in Trauma-Conscious Yoga, Yin Yoga, & Adaptive Yoga (MindBody Solutions). She runs a Yin Yoga Certificate Training annually.