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YogaDork Ed: Carrie Owerko On First 16 Yoga Sutras in Practice, Life, Reflection and Letting Go

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We’re thrilled to introduce educator and senior Iyengar teacher Carrie Owerko. Check it out! And try the homework.

The First 16 Yoga Sutras
by Carrie Owerko, Senior Iyengar Teacher

In the first sixteen sutras of Patanjali (Yoga Philosophy 101, as Edwin Bryant puts it), we have a process or progression of yoga laid out before us, yoga being the stilling of the fluctuations in the consciousness (or the stilling of one’s inner waters) so that the perceptions and reflections are clear and accurate. We see. But at other times we think we are the movement of our inner thoughts or we think we are our wavy, choppy waters. These thoughts can be either afflicting (klista) or non-affecting (aklista)—the term klista derives from the same root as the work klesta (klis, “to trouble, or torment”). Our thoughts can be like waves—in the process of settling down (moving toward stability and clarity) or in the process of becoming turbulent, thus increasing their destructive momentum. The klista vrittis or kleshes, if you will, are weakened by abhyasa and vairagya (practice and detachment, or the renunciation of desire).

Sutra Study
Try some of the following text examinations and practice suggestions and see if they awaken anything within you.
 Read the first sixteen sutras of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  Professor Edwin Bryant says that in these sutras is Yoga Philosophy 101.

  • Reflect how they relate to your practice and life.
  • Using your own words rewrite the sutras.
  • Feel free to put them into bullet points or an outline.
  • Remember to distill the main ideas articulated in those first sixteen sutras.
  • Be specific on how you are practicing bringing them off the page and into your heart and into your life.

Asana Practice
Practice Utthita Parsvakonasana and Virabhadrasana 3.

  • How are they related or linked to each other?
  • How does Utthita Parsvakonasana teach and inform Virabhadrasana 3 and vise-versa?

And for fun:

  • Try finding different ways to move into and out of the standing poses.
  • If you find something informative or helpful consider how you are doing what you are doing.
  • Always question why are you doing it (besides the fact that it is a game we are playing with).

When playing with the above practices, or when you are practicing any pose, especially the difficult ones keep asking,

  • How am I doing this?
  • How am I going about this?
  • What am I really doing?

Go step by step. Dive in and feel your way through the process. Live and practice in the presence of these questions. Let them be like traveling companions that accompany you on your journeys.

Keep letting go of the mind that wants to “get it right”.  Krishna 
tells Arjuna

“One should not give up the work suited to one’s nature, though it may be defective, for all enterprises are clouded by defects as fire by smoke”

The Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18, verse 48


Carrie Owerko has been practicing yoga for many years and is a core faculty member of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of NY. She holds an Intermediate Senior One teaching credential and serves as an assessor for the Iyengar National Association. She travels regularly to India to study with the Iyengar family and has had the honor of co-choreographing and performing in “Live-Light on Life,” a tribute to the life and works of B.K.S.  Iyengar at New York City Center, during his 2005 National Book Tour.  Before devoting herself to the art and science of yoga, Carrie earned a BFA in Dance and Theater from Loretto Heights College and became a Certified Movement Analyst from the Laban Institute. She has spent years dancing, performing and exploring movement for communication and expression.

For upcoming workshops click here.



6 comments… add one
  • Very interesting. Can’t wait to try it and report back

  • Good Afternoon! I happened to find awesome thoughts 🙂 Keep writing!

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