Yoga’s increasing popularity in the western world calls most people to their mat through a desire to increase physical movement and mental clarity. While yoga includes the practice of asana, or the postures as they are connected into a sequence, the tradition of yoga in India tells us that there’s a lot more to the practice than movement and breath.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali incorporate all the teachings of yoga, including the discipline principles of the mind and the physical practice, as well as the in-depth introspections and manifestations created by a commitment to the whole practice. It sounds intense, because it is, especially since the original form of the work was written in Sanskrit.
To make the Sutras more accessible and comprehensible, author Geshe Michael Roach wrote How Yoga Works, a functional story that incorporates the teachings of Patanjali. There are many current translations of the Sutras, but this book submerges the ancient teachings into a format that relatable and narrative.
The book reads easily and quickly, and it’s one that (for most) can be picked up and put back down sporadically, or even thumbed back through to pull out certain passages and themes.
Roach leads readers with a fictional story of Friday, a young girl who is arrested in 1101 A.D. as she crosses the border between Tibet and India with a valuable copy of the The Yoga Sutras. She is imprisoned under the orders that she must help the Captain of the local jail overcome pain in his back, and their journey together through his introduction and progression of the practice is what ties together the meanings of the ancient teachings.
As Friday continues to share the teachings of yoga with the Captain, the many obstacles and lessons encountered along the way are similar to those that many practitioners experience, especially when they first dive into the practice. The story continuously weaves in relative Sutras to effectively teach the Captain (and the reader) Patanjali’s wise words surrounding each circumstance.
While each reader will relate his or her personal “stories of experience” to the novel, as readers do when they are experiencing words through a subjective lens, one of the most profound lessons in the novel is that nothing has meaning beyond the meaning we create in our minds:
“Stay in that one pure thought,
And never forget it;
That single most important thing:
Things are empty
Of being what they are
So just as the text holds words and a story, the mind creates from that what it will, and that will define your personal experience of “How Yoga Works,” and the journey of your own life-long practice.
Kim Fuller grew up in the Colorado mountains and has always found beauty and inspiration through nature and movement. Kim is a freelance journalist and a yoga teacher based in Vail. Her writing and photo work has focused on health, wellness, recreation, food and travel since 2007, and Kim began her yoga practice in Boulder, followed by her first teacher training with Real Evolution Yoga at Peace Retreat Costa Rica in November of 2012.