"The present moment, if you think about it,is the only time there is.No matter what time it is, it is always now."-Marianne Williamson
Yoga sutra 1.1 reads “Atha yogānuśāsanam.” One translation states, “Now the exposition of Yoga is being made.” Another interpretation simply implies, “Yoga is Now.”
The yoga sutras of Patanjali are yogic thoughts, philosophies and principles compiled for us to ponder, consider and infuse within our yoga practice. While these principles have place and implications within the asana room, the significance of them can perhaps best be articulated and transformative in our experiences off the mat. The word sutra means thread, and upon reflection, it seems as no surprise that this first single thread implies an invitation to be present, thus vibrantly kicking off the 195 following threads of this rich tapestry.
A call to attentive awareness of now gently encourages us to lay aside that which has transpired prior to this moment, as well as that which is anticipated to follow. I don’t think I’m alone in recognizing that it is quite a challenging task. If you are anything like me, thoughts seem to come charging in, often uninvited or unanticipated, demanding to obsess over this or worry about that. It can be a battle to actively regain the reigns of the mind and work toward any hint or stillness or equanimity. It is truly an ongoing practice, but a worthy one at that.
When we establish our focus in now, we recognize not only the gift of this particular moment, but also the impermanence that exists in all things. The reality of impermanence and change are the only things that will remain unchanging in our lives. In perceiving the significance of this truism, we can relax a little when we consider our pending burdens, resolving that all will eventually shift. We can also better appreciate the sweetness of an experience when things smooth into our favor.
Focusing on now is not an avoidance of the future, but instead an investment within it. As Eckhart Tolle wisely proclaims, "The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present." When we think about the future, it is often in pursuit of arriving toward a particular goal or ideal. But the reality is that we never really truly arrive in any one place for long—we are always moving from one landmark, destination, or goal to the next. With this in mind, we can best invest in our future by fully embracing now. Given that this life is made up of a series of commutes in a sense, it is of great value to take in the surrounding scenery as it arrives to us, staying as present as our very breath, and enjoying the journey.
Two ways I find useful to practice being in the moment, particularly when I feel inclined to dwell upon burdens of the past or frets about the future, are standing in Tadasana, and focusing my breath. What’s more is that these two exercises can be practiced together practically anywhere.
Tadasana (mountain pose)
Stand evenly on your two feet. Feet can either be together to touch or hips distance, with all ten toes pointing straight ahead. Perhaps explore taking a slow sway forward, then back, then side to side. See if this assessment of shifting within your space can help you find the plumb line through which to stand tall. Establish the weight into the heel of your feet, then spread some of that weight forward from the big toe mound to the little toe mound. Explore a subtle lift of the inner and outer arches of both feet. As you settle and firm your feet deeper into the support of the floor, feel a rebounding energy draw up from your soles and radiate through the crown of your head. As you establish your foundation, notice the resulting strength of your legs, but put a gentle bend in your knees so that you can find a softening quality and avoid any hardening or hyperextension of the leg at the knee. Notice the effect this has on drawing a deeper and fuller breath. Draw your navel slightly in toward your spine, for subtle core awareness. Ensure you can still draw deep breaths amidst the effort within your core strength. Soften the front ribs into the belly as you lift your back ribs up. Broaden across your collarbones as you draw your shoulder blades together on the back body. Let the head stack naturally atop the length you have cultivated throughout the entire spine.
The breath is such an incredible illustration of what it looks like to stay present. The very nature of breathing is a constant state of filling up and letting go—of coming from one moment to the next. It is only in following this natural rhythm and flow that we can assure our sustaining life force. Indeed, we cannot hold onto a previous breath and expect to survive! Our mere existence relies on this most basic rhythm, yet we are often unaware of the quality of our breath. Consider a simple mantra of “Inhale, Exhale” to follow the rhythm of your breath to hold your awareness in in the present moment. Notice the sensation of the resulting expansion and hollowing that occurs in your trunk. Encourage the breath to inflate within and release from all areas of the torso. Explore the sensation of the breath coming in through the nose, and sipping it down through the throat, into the chest, side ribs, and belly. Soften into the rhythm of the breath, allowing your whole body to gently pulse in response to this natural fluctuation.