First Level of Yoga

This course touches on about sixty sūtras for study and thirty for practice, which should lead to significant improvements in one’s wellbeing if put into regular use.

Other courses and books are available to practice āsanas(postures) and prāṇāyāma(breathing techniques) but these are only touched on lightly here as this can be learnt better in yoga clubs and with teachers, who specialise in these two areas. These people teach Haṭha Yoga to prepare one for meditation. Ha-ṭha-yoga literally means joining breathing with mind (yoga = joining;ha = prāṇāyāma; with ṭha = mind). Haṭha Yoga also describes methods for cleaning the physical body inside and outside in preparation for meditation.

Out of 196 Yoga-sūtras

only one deals with sitting in a comfortable way which is poised and upright (2.46 sthira-sukham-āsanam = A steady-comfortable-posture).
Five sūtras deal with breathing (2.49-53), but most of this work emphasizes what mental practices and attitudes we should adopt.
Although the course is directly taken from the Sanskrit, almost every word is translated into English, if at all possible.

Who am I ?

But in spite of its purity (here means ‘unmixed quality’) it appears to see through mental concepts, which lead to erroneous interpretations

Water in a green bottle may look green, but we know from experience it is still transparent. Here is a need for ‘viyoga’ (separation) i.e. knowing that the water is really transparent although it appears green in a green-coloured bottle.


‘I am’


existence, knower of the known, unconditional, love, conscious, Self-shining, unaffected, bliss.


CHANGING (‘Illusory’)

Feeling of ‘I am-ness’

asmitā – I am ‘a doer, a someone or something’

I-am-ness’ Local feeling of existence causing individuality
I walk, eat, make, improve myself, work, play, think, feel, run the show, remember, forget, learn

I AM awake, asleep, dreaming, a human, lonely, clear, confused, mind, heart, intelligent, related to someone, stupid, small, tall, old, young, happy, sad, in love, out of love, insignificant, best, worst, lazy, good-looking, ugly, what I think or feel or do.



Observe these various identifications with yourself and record some of them. They are not necessarily a problem as long as we are clear what is unchanging and what is not.

The Inner Instrument: Use it to park it.

Then the Seer abides in its own true nature.

Otherwise the Seer takes on the fluctuations of the mind.


Each morning after getting up and having woken up sufficiently, sit still for two minutes and observe the thoughts, feelings and sensations come and go. If there is enough calmness also become aware of ‘the Seer, Silent Witness or Observer’.

Do the same in the evening, before getting too sleepy.

Five types of knowledge as fluctuations held in mind.

Can all fluctuations in mind and heart be accounted for in these five categories?

Give examples from this week of all of the above types of knowledge. They are either painful or not. E.g. I see someone and I don’t like that person. I imagine something terrible is going to happen to me. I remember someone saying bad things about me and it still hurts now. But even some wrong knowledge may not bother me – may not be painful.

Continuous practice and detachment from likes and dislikes.

Do your duty without looking for results. Don’t look for acknowledgement, praise or rewards. If they do happen to come one’s way just acknowledge them with the least fuss possible. Keep your eye on the ball when you are engaged in activity. Don’t avoid what you don’t like or repeat unnecessarily what you enjoy.

Be persistent in practicing this until it becomes part of you. Free the mind from attraction and repulsion. It is not possible to remain calm and peaceful for long unless this detachment is practiced continually. Good habits are to be developed and made part of one’s nature! Continuous practice set us free. Until firmly established the lower, less desirable state of mind will kick in by force of habit. Remain enthusiastic through thick and thin. Be patient. Practice this yoga daily. It is better to practice willingly rather than from compulsion. Be earnest, respectful and devoted to your practice. Seek out good company; company that supports these endeavours.


How do we suffer?

How do we suffer because of..
Real happiness is not skin-deep. From the outside we cannot know if someone is suffering inside. Ignorance of one’s true identity leads to ‘I am-ness’ – individuality. This leads to attraction and repulsion and fear of death. Ignorance here means to mistake the non-eternal, impure, evil and things as eternal, pure, good and self respectively. The five above need self-analysis or introspection. Take time to observe these five tendencies. The first two were introduced under ‘Who am I’. Observe ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ as they present themselves during the day and just record some of these.


This is a once-off experiment. Spend some hours like a free evening just relying on your own company; doing nothing apart from reading over the five causes of suffering a few times. Don’t fill this time with background music, reading a book, looking at your mobile, watching tele etc. Just eat in silence. Be aware of what is going on around you without reacting to it. Warn people around you that you are conducting an experiment and you need to minimise contact and conversation. Tell them it will only be for one evening as you are engaged in a self-discovery experiment. Get up a little earlier the next morning and write down how you felt about this – good, bad or indifferent – and what you discovered about yourself. If the thought of this experiment is too challenging, report on that. What may be so scary about doing nothing for a few hours and being in your own company?

Principles and practices to overcome suffering

As mentioned before this needs continuous practice and detachment. Firstly, craving sensual enjoyments should be reduced to necessity rather than blindly following them. It is unadvisable to do anything drastic. Deprivation and hair-shirt tendencies are ill advised. The other source text for Yoga, the Bhagavad Gītā – says yoga is not for extremists, but for those who practice moderation.

Yoga is not eating too much, nor is it not eating at all, Neither the habit of sleeping too much, and nor keeping awake either, O Arjuna.

(Bhagavad Gītā 6.17)

Take small steps in reducing cravings. For example, with the craving for food for example there is a natural need to feed the body. Simply eat with more awareness and more care. Treat yourself to fresh and wholesome food. It will give your body vigour and strength, but it will affect the mental realm also. There are physical, mental, emotional and psychic cravings which all need the correct response. Consider the need for satisfying cravings and act with caution. Be firm but gentle in carrying out a wholesome regime in relation to each craving.

Secondly, become more aware of your breathing. It should be smooth, deep and slow – unless some short burst of vigorous activity is required. Don’t breath in and out through the mouth, unless it is necessary. Use the nose for inhalation and exhalation. Especially when doing the short stillness exercise, observe the breathing getting slower and smoother.

Controlled breathing

Slow breathing leads to longevity

The more effort is put into overcome suffering to attain a peaceful mind, the quicker this is achieved. Be light but earnest.

Practices in overcoming suffering

Four useful attitudes to calm the mind.

Friendlinessin friendly circumstances.

Compassionwhen meeting those in weaker or unhappy circumstances

Gladnesstowards others when they are greater or more successful,

Equanimity Showing indifference to those who intentionally try to hurt at the emotional level.

We will do some physical Yoga at this level.
Students are asked to bring in suitable clothes and at least take off their socks and shoes.


Early morning exercise (Sun Salute)