"Atha Yoga Anushasanam" - Now the practice of Yoga. A beautiful invitation to enter the Sanctuary of our practice.
In this first sutra, Patanjali tells us that it is possible for any of us to experience yoga and realize the truth, because this truth is available all around us; if we are willing to look deeply into things, we would be able to realize it. Everything is more than it seems. There is always something hidden underneath the surface of a person or a thing, but to discover it you have to be willing to look deeply.
Atha is a most auspicious word. It means "now." It calls our attention to the fact that a teaching of great importance is about to be given — right now — not "once upon a time" in the past, or some time in the future — but now in the present moment. This is so encouraging, because when anyone is present when these words are pronounced, automatically yoga has relevance to that person; it's about them — it has implications to the life they are living right at that moment. Atha makes yoga a living teaching, not something archaic that was studied by ancients at some point in history, but an invitation to Be Here Now.
With this very first sutra, Patanjali reminds us to be present, to wake up to reality. The words can be translated as follows.
Yoga is discipline. It is an effort of our parts to discover ourselves. This very moment can change our dimension, our direction of being. Now means not moving into the future, not moving toward the past, then we start moving within ourselves, because our beings are here and now, we are present here and now and we can enter this reality. Yoga is intelligent effort that encompasses different techniques such as breathing excercises, chanting, service, and specially contemplation and meditation that bring about this union. The inner Self is our deepest nature, the core, and the source of our mind. The quest for the experience of the Self is given the name of Yoga, an intelligent effort, the essence of meditation, stilling the thought waves of the mind, when the mind is still, the Self shines forth, this awakening is an up-welling of energy, joy and wisdom.