Yoga Sutras Off the Mat: Tapping Into Our Sensory Perception

Why lingering on sensation can help us appreciate individual moments.

The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali is a compilation of teachings that date back as far as 5,000 BC, and seek to articulate the roots of the mental science of yoga. The book is made up of nearly 200 sūtras (meaning “threads”), composed by Sri Patañjali aka the “Father of Yoga.” As any modern-day yogi knows, these ancient wisdoms have some very tangible applications. That’s why each week we’re bringing this ancient yogic tradition off the mat and into the everyday by pairing individual sūtras with our modern day experiences, struggles and insights. 

Seeing is believing. We’ve all seen the validity of these words for ourselves, perhaps without even realizing it.

Think of all the Christmas Eve nights spent tiptoeing down the stairs in the hopes of spying a man with a white beard, or our inability to resist rubbernecking as we roll past an accident on the highway.

For better, or for worse, we’re weary to accept something that we’ve yet to experience with our own two eyes. We trust that our senses will lead us to the truth of the matter, and they often do so by helping us make inferences.

To infer is to experience one thing and know that it comes packaged along with another. For example, if you walk into your apartment and are hit with the warm, sultry smell of brown sugar and butter, you can likely assume that one of your roommate is whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Before you know it, your senses cling to this smell, illustrating images around it. You can imagine the chocolate melting into the cookie dough. Your mouth waters in anticipation of the sugar rush.

You’re not visually experiencing the cookies yet, but you might as well be. The picture of them in your head is nearly as delicious as the cookies themselves. It’s kind of magical that our senses can adorn something as simple as a sweet smell with such a rich visual and taste experience.

Patanjali knows this, and in this Sūtra, he’s asking us to take time out to appreciate how our sensory perception constantly affects how we participate in our lives.

We’re so busy living that we often forget that our experience consists of a complex combination of elements and factors. So while this Sūtra may seem self-evident, I see it as an invitation to interrupt the auto-pilot of your day-to-day routine and linger upon each sumptuous experience—the painful and the irresistible.

What good
is a half-lit
can burn me
to ashes
as long as I know
we lived a life

-Tyler Knott Gregson



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