Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.12 – 1.17

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.12 – 1.17

1.12 The Changing States of Mind are stilled by practice and dispassion (detachment).
1.13 Practice is the effort to be fixed in concentrating the mind. 
1.14 Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time. 
1.15 Dispassion is the controlled consciousness of one who is without craving for sense objects.
1.16 Higher than renunciation is indifference to the gunas. This stems from perception of the soul (purusa).
1.17 Samadhi consists of the consecutive mental stages of absorption with physical awareness, absorption with subtle awareness, absorption with bliss and absorption with the sense of I-ness. 

As the great sage, Nisargadatta, has said, Spiritual Practice is will, asserted and reasserted. 

We find one thing; the breath, a mantra, connecting to the lower abdomen, a prayer or connection to the Divine – and we just keep coming back to it, doggedly returning despite the boredom or frustration or resistance or the feeling of being hands down the most ineffectual yoga practitioner in the last two thousand years.

As the great zen teacher, Shodo Harada Roshi, has said, practice is like filing a bucket one drop of water at a time. Every moment of awareness, every moment given to the breath, is a single drop in a bucket. Each moment that follows with awareness and care is another drop of water in the bucket. As long as we continue to give our full-hearted attention to the practice, the bucket will slowly, inexorably, begin to fill. But if we lose our awareness and fade out into thoughts or get pulled around by desires and fears or only give half of our attention to the present moment because we incorrectly assume that it is, after all, just there and obvious – no need to give it such importance – then the bucket will not only stop filling up, the water will very, very quickly drop back to the bottom. How many times have we been in meditation or asana practice, feeling our energy level and focus growing, sharpening, clarifying and then something pulls us away for a moment and when we come back to the present moment we can be surprised and discouraged at how difficult it is to get back into the practice. The momentum is lost and it takes time to slowly begin again and come back to a focused flow.

Giving our full attention to every breath, every moment, never assuming we know this moment and how it will unfold into the next. Every breath is new. Imagine that! How many thousands of breaths we take in a lifetime and not a single one is exactly the same! Yet, do we notice? Isn’t it true for most of us that each breath feels exactly the same as the next, even as we’re paying attention? This is what it means to take the present moment for granted, to be ignorant and blind, only half aware of the brilliance of this life, this moment we are participating in. So much of life is passing us by without us being aware. If we knew we were half asleep and with blinders on to boot, we would probably walk and observe much more carefully., give much more attention to everything realizing that a lot of information is passing is by. Slow down. Pay attention. It’s all slipping by so quickly. This intention, the will to keep coming back to the practice is phenomenally precious. It’s bringing us back to something concrete and real, away from a sleepy, half lived existence.

We slowly add one drop into the bucket after the other. That this process is difficult, seemingly impossible, is not a reason to stop. That emotions from boredom to fear to anger rise up and sweep us away from the practice is a matter of course. When we can, we come back to the moment and continue to practice. We  continue to assert this will, this desire to be present. We continue to fight against the ego’s wish to be content with the dull and the repetitive pattering of the mind. As Nisargadatta is pointing out to us, ultimately, it’s that very thing that wills to find freedom that is discovered to be freedom itself. This is when the bucket overflows.

As the bucket is filling up, giving our full attention to the majesty of every present moment – we find ourselves feeling better and better. The mind clarifies and sharpens. We’re more confident. Problems, both internal and external begin to resolve themselves, often spontaneously and without effort. We find ourselves slipping, naturally, here and there, in and out of samadhi just conducting the normal activities of our lives. In short, we begin to grow, to develop as human beings. We get excited and, perhaps naturally, assume we are now advanced practitioners. We’ve figured it all out, or close enough. We drop everything and become yoga and meditation teachers, start teaching others about this wonderful path. Now, this is all wonderful and fine but how many of us on this path realize that we’re only half way there? This rising energy, the confidence, the growth and realization of essence, the development of the mind and spirit, the samadhi – these are all symptoms of a practice that is only half full, maybe even very close to being totally full, but not of a mind that has come to overflowing. It can feel so good and so right that we stop practicing, we stop striving because we assume that we’ve ‘got it.’ This is sad and entirely too common in our modern spiritual culture.

The only remedy for this is to keep asserting and reasserting that will to practice. Just don’t stop.  A mind that is practicing is always starting over. A mind that is practicing is always coming from the place of a beginner. A true practitioner is always letting go of the past and reasserting the present. We are in a constant state of forgiveness. Constantly letting go. There is no such thing as an advanced practitioner, only people who carefully and humbly and whole heartedly give their all to this moment. All true practitioners share this in common. Those who claim to themselves or others to be advanced got lost somewhere along the way. Fortunately for all of us (and, let’s be honest, who hasn’t fallen into the trap a few hundred times?), all we need to find ourselves again is to just come back to this one breath and start filling that bucket, asserting and reasserting this will to freedom.


Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.3 & 1.4

1.3 When that is accomplished, the seer abides in its own true nature

1.4 Otherwise, at other times, the seer is absorbed in the changing states of the mind. 

Is meditation or yoga a means to an end, do we focus the mind in order to find this quiet, settled mind, or is it already an expression of that which is most true in us?  The shifting, changing states of mind are with us always, a hall of mirrors without end, accompanying us in every moment of every day. This quiet mind is here as well, holding up all our confusion without concern or effort. We are master magicians caught up in believing our own magic act, forgetting that it is our own slight of hand that has created this seeming reality.

In the beginning, it will be necessary to practice as if the asana or the breath was some magical tool capable of delivering us from ourselves. Almost by accident, we will find the mind settling and we will think that it was something given to us by the practice. We become inspired and our practice grows and these settled mind states continue to deepen. We start to find these states popping up in our day to day lives. When we get angry or stressed we find we’re less reactive and able to work better with the situation.

At some point we will begin to see that these moments of almost accidental spaciousness are pointing to something more than just us feeling good, something more than a magical elixir that delivers us from our stress and problems. We begin to sense that through our practice we’re coming into touch with ourselves at our deepest and most intimate level. Eventually, asana, breathwork or meditation will become an expression of that which we really are. We don’t practice in order to find center or connect. Practice is by it’s very nature centered and connected. We will find ourselves thinking, “Gosh, I’m most myself, i feel most at home, centered and confident, when i’m in meditation or in asana practice.”

What is it that sees? What is that thinks? What is that feels frustrated or stuck? What is that says, ‘I love this feeling of bliss, I never want it to end..?’They are all changing states of mind, the frustration, the bliss, the stuckness and the openness, but there’s something holding all this up. You.

In our asana practice, we don’t need to add anything more to it! No more ideas, or opinions or assumptions. If we do, then we’re back to being caught in the changing states of mind, caught up in self created illusion. What if we could just stay in bridge pose and give our full attention to it? Is the posture itself creating a sense of ease, or is it the mind that carefully and quietly pays attention to all the tiny details in the pose that allows us to settle and feel good? Please try to come to our poses in this way and experience it’s true wealth and joy. This is not advanced stuff. Anyone can do it. You don’t need to be flexible or to understand the postures or alignment or yogic philosophy. You are practicing you. You are practicing on yourself. All you need is to be aware and to have a body. You qualify 🙂 There is a quiet dignity in asana or meditation that comes from simply being with the practice. Please find this dignity so that you can inspire your own life and that of others.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.2

1.2 Yoga is the Stilling of the Changing States of the Mind.

Where can we find peace, a place of rest and repose? What does it mean to quiet the mind? Does it come about by some sort of external pressure applied, by force of will and thought – forcing thoughts and sensations to be pushed back into remission? Is the quiet mind imposed from without, manufactured through effort, or is it something intrinsic to to what we are?  We each need to go into our own practice, both a moment to moment practice of mindfulness, our meditation practice and our asana practice to discover this answer for ourselves.

What can we put our trust in, in this life? Is the quiet mind something we can put our trust in, to carry us through the difficulties and pains of a tumultuous life or will it run away the moment things get difficult? Is it a close friend that will never betray us or a fair weather friend that skips away the moment we stumble? We each need to go into our own practice, both a moment to moment practice of mindfulness, our meditation practice and our asana practice to discover this answer for ourselves.


Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.1

1.1 Now the Teachings of Yoga are Presented.

So begins the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in a fairly innocuous fashion. It’s easy to assume that Patanjali is simply saying, “So we begin.” Many scholars and practitioners have pointed out, though, that Patanjali was not one to waste time or mince words and this sutra is potentially also exhorting us to practice NOW; not later on or tomorrow or when we have time for a retreat. Every moment is fresh and an opportunity to focus on the breath, a mantra, being present or opening up an experience that we normally close down around.

There is no such thing as a repeatable moment in the realm of our subjective experience. If we’re not paying attention or giving life to this moment than, sure, every breath feels and seems exactly like the last. Our close friends are exactly as they were the day before. Our jobs are exactly as they were last year and will continue in like fashion through the years. Everything is taken for granted because it seems like everything is exactly as it was from before. But if we decide to practice right here and now, we get to transform the mundane and habitual into something new and undiscovered. We have no idea what the next moment will bring! But if we’re not paying attention, we’re sure not to find out. Likewise, if we do not give energy to our practice in this moment, we will not reap it’s benefits in the next. Practice is slow and steady and we can only feel it’s benefits by a slow and steady effort over time. If we start now, we will be sure to begin to experience the rewards down the line.

When we make the decision to practice right here and now you may feel resistance, a sense of futility, like trying to pull yourself out of bed at 4 in the morning. This is natural. The mind is happy in it’s habitual world, even if it’s not that exciting or meaningful. We need to make that tiny, gentle push to start and begin anew in each moment.

Mary’s Place Offerings

RBY is now offering a monthly donation to Mary’s Place, a women’s shelter in Seattle. Every month we collect specific items to give to the shelter. If you’d like to share, please bring them in to the office before class. Thanks!
This month our focus is on Hair Products, specifically ones designed for African hair. We’re looking for thick tooth combs, natural bristle brushes, oil based moisturizers, thick ponytail holders, and edge control. These items are easy to find at drug store and dollar stores. Also, ask your hair salon if they have any that they are willing to donate.

Deep Stretch

At Richmond Beach Yoga Studio, we are excited to be offering two new intensive stretching classes, Tuesday and Thursday at 8am. Like our Yin class, the Deep Stretch classes are designed primarily to work towards greater flexibility in the hips, hamstrings and lower back while developing a deep sense of root and energy in the mind. It differentiates from the Yin class in that one occasionally will see some classic Yang or standing poses thrown in, although they also will be held for longer than one might see in a typical hatha class.

Probably the greatest challenge these classes present to the student is not so much the intensity of the stretch in the pose, as all can easily be modified and pulled back from if needed, but the fact that there’s not a whole lot going on to keep the student occupied. There’s the pose, the breath and the sensations of the body often for up to two or three minutes. If there’s a lack of focus on the students part, what can be a fascinating meditation on the physical and energetic aspects of the body, can turn in something quite listless, uncomfortable and, dare I say it, boring. Boredom, in all things, but especially in yoga, can always be seen as a wall in our perception, a limit in our own personal horizon that can be overcome through a simple application of our attention to the matter at hand; the breath, the body, and our reactions to the pose. Seated meditation and Yin type yoga classes are perfect for working with this boundary. What lies behind boredom, when we pass through it – is the recognition of the steady pulse of our being and senses flowing through the present moment. What lies there is our own center, independent and clear of competing interests, a steady part of our being that’s not contingent on others or on entertainment of any sort to feel alive and meaningful. Sound to good to be true? Try it and see!

Yoga Teacher Training Resources

5 resources for finding the perfect yoga teacher training program for you

1. Yoga Alliance

First, make sure that the school or teacher is recognized by Yoga Alliance. While not all of us necessarily feel they are any kind of real authority, they certainly have established themselves as a resource that many people trust and have created guidelines for yoga teacher training that most, if not all, schools abide by when creating a 200 or 500 hour program. It makes sense to make sure that the school you wish to do your training at is recognized by Yoga Alliance


2 & 3. Yoga School Directory & Seattle Yoga News

You can check out a list of yoga training sites by going either to the Yoga School Directory or, many cities have blogs that function as communal resources for the yoga community in that area. For example, Seattle Yoga News lists events, retreats and teacher trainings from all over the Seattle area.


Yoga School Directory

4. Stone Yoga School

If money and time is not an issue, check out these incredible international teacher training programs, where you get to work with master teachers in exotic locations. It’s not cheap, but if you can afford it, it’s potentially a fantastic way to not only learn how to teach from a phenomenal teacher, but you get to spend some weeks or months getting the experience of a lifetime, abroad. Here are two awesome programs to consider. (There also are some interesting programs in India, as well, if you’re willing to do the research).


Stone Yoga School

5. Richmond Beach Yoga

Of course, over at RBY, we offer a comprehensive program led by master teachers at a competitive price range.

Yoga Teacher Training



2016 in Retrospect

Our Yoga Studio has seen a great many changes and developments in this last year and the new year is perfect time to take a closer look at what we’ve accomplished together and where we’re headed.

Change of Ownership

The beginning of Summer began with a change of ownership as Rob took over the reins from Angeline as the formal administrator of the business. This went under just about everyone’s radar as we both worked hard to keep our yoga studio offering the same professional standards as before with minimum drama, mix-ups, dropped balls or general chaos. Angeline continues to teach her classes at the studio, offer monthly workshops and is very much partners with Rob in keeping the spirit and energy of Richmond Beach Yoga alive and well. She continues to advise on matters such as our Yoga Teacher Training coming in the Spring, adding or changing the yoga classes on our weekly schedule and organizing the various special events and offers that pop up at our yoga studio.

RBY’s 5th Year Anniversary

October was the 5th year anniversary of RBY and we had a blast offering a day of free classes in honor of the event. Both the main yoga studio and the side studio featured 40 minute classes from 9 to 3pm. The teachers loved doing it. The students loved taking the classes. It was so great that we all agreed to not wait another five years but offer this at every anniversary of RBY.

Men’s and Women’s Retreats

We had a men’s retreat at the Cascades Learning Institute and a women’s retreat at the Sleeping Lady in Leavenworth. Both in the month of October. While we had retreats before these, these were our first more specialized retreats at further out and more exclusive locales. We hope to continue offer something similar in the years to come.

40 Classes a Week!

Only a year ago, RBY weekly class size was in the low 20’s. Beginning in 2017, we have 40 different offerings that can be taken on any given week in both our main yoga studio and side studio. These range from the gentlest of classes, our candle light restorative and meditation to our alignment specific hatha classes to vinyasa, power vinyasa and our specialized strength clinic. Our students know that our teachers make an effort to keep every class new, so even within a particular style of  yoga we offer variety.

Meditation: 5 times a week

One year ago, we had one meditation class a week that drew in seattle meditators and those from around shoreline and edmonds. We now have three a week, with two additional 45 minute silent sits in the evenings to compliment the classes. Meditation is such an important underpinning of yoga, we’re proud to offer this incredible practice at our studio.

The Side Studio

Now revamped with a new paint job, blinds and decor, we’re offering all of our meditations in the side studio, along with the kids yoga series and our pre-natal classes. It’s a gorgeous space, we encourage you to come and check it out, even if you’re taking a class in the main studio.

Updated and Revamped Website

The website has been streamlined, cutting down on the amount of information thrown at the reader and made compatible with smartphones and tablets.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Richmond Beach Yoga!

The New Year, as we all know, is a time to reflect on our previous efforts and re-set and re-energize our efforts for the coming year. Today, this morning, 8 of us came together to run through 108 sun salutations over 2 hours. We began this period of intensive practice with the following poem.

Archaic Torso of Apollo

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875 – 1926

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rilke, the poet, is speaking of coming into a museum and seeing a statue of Apollo – a headless, limbless version of the god that many of us have at least seen in pictures, if not in a museum ourselves. Rilke, rather than seeing something dead, or archaic, or intellectually stimulating, finds here a presence that speaks to him, sees him, communicates. This is a lovely, lovely poem that works on so many different levels but, ultimately, every analysis comes down to those last two haunting lines. Lines that seem startled at their own presence in the poem, they rear up out of the rhythmic pulse, they claw out of the pleasing aesthetic of Rilke’s ruminations on a limbless statue and tear themselves from the page, confronting both poet and the reader. There is no place that does not see you. You must change your life. What a wonderful, terrifying confrontation!

The body has its own wisdom. It can be accessed in meditation. It can be worked with in our Yoga practice. The body can function as an other, something separate that can speak to us like the trees as the rain beats through them or the dawn as purple cracks through the horizon or as all great works of art can speak to us. When we first feel the awakening of Prana in the lower abdomen or rushing up the soles of the feet in Warrior 2, this is the body speaking to us, telling us its own wisdom. But the body is also the vessel which receives these more subtle communications from the outer world. When we ‘hear’ the murmurs of the clouds that race along the Puget Sound or perceive the wisdom of a red chested Robin perched proudly in the middle of a wind storm, it’s not with our intellect or even so much our senses, but with something that abides, quiet and always present in our greater being. It lies, usually dormant, in our very bodies. We must change our lives, not because there’s something wrong with us – this isn’t an accusatory poem or one about sin – but because we all want to come to a life lived with more meaning, more fulfilling relationships, a life in which we can find happiness in our ordinary confrontations with the world, rather than having to seek it in far flung adventures or by sating ourselves in various little habits and addictions.  Life speaks to us all the time through the body and this greater being that inhabits it.

Most of us know that feeling of having come out of meditation or an hour of yoga and feel the breeze poignantly on our cheek as if it was for the first time, or see the green of the trees more vividly than before. These are the beginnings of a form of communication that Rilke is speaking to us of, of being receptive to a world that doesn’t just lie dead and dormant outside but actively sees us, calls to us and we feel it and know it from deep within. It’s not ‘seeing’ so much as an ever deepening call and response. A dance. The wonder of all this is that we already have all we need to continue on this journey of mysterious discovery; our bodies, our senses, our practice. To cultivate these, all that is needed, is constantly renewing that little vow; we must change our lives, we must listen to that which is already there. Rilke’s poem is, to borrow from the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, about practice. We cultivate the body, we cultivate better habits in diet and mind and relationship. We do it moment by moment, day by day, and slowly sculpt our own work of art that manifests through the body, the personality and, of course, our deeper selves. Through practice, we perfect ourselves, and perfection is revealed in the simple act of being in true relationship with ourselves and the world.

There is far more that can be said about all this, for example about the fire that mounts in practices like the 108 sun salutations and why that’s important for melting the habituated senses and intellect, but I feel like I’ve been heavy handed enough in this post for at least the next year. J

Happy New Year, everyone. We look forward to continuing to practice with you at RBY.


Yoga Teacher Training at RBY

A New Start in March!

With the new year coming many of us want to start fresh with a sense of direction and purpose, look for ways to be challenged and grow in our lives and our practice. Our 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training beginning in March is an excellent way to grow deeply into your practice in a structured and safe environment.

Designed for those with Busy Lives

Our curriculum is based around Saturdays and alternate Sundays to allow for those with families and busy professional to come and deepen in this wonderful practice. We are nestled near the border of Shoreline and Edmonds. From North Seattle, where many of our teachers and students migrate from, it’s often only a 10 to 20 minute drive (a surprise to many students when they first check us out!), especially on the weekend without commuter traffic. This year, we’ve deliberately extended our Yoga Teacher Training another month so that your Saturday evenings are left to you and your plans, rather than trying to cram every little hour into just a 3 month intensive.

Individual Attention

Students will receive plenty of individual attention with regular scheduled private meetings and check-ins. We’re not a one size fits all studio and we’ll make sure you grow in the ways you need and want and receive help in the things that you find most challenging.

Experienced Teachers

Alison, Dylan and Rob will guide you through 4 months of a carefully scaffolded curriculum. All of the teachers have been teaching for over 10 years and bring joy, passion and dedication to the craft.

Take a look at our website to learn more!!!

Yoga Teacher Training