1.1 atta yoganusasanam
"And now, the teachings of yoga"
“the disciplines of integration are here expounded through experience and are given to humanity for the exploration and recognition of that hidden part of man which is beyond the awareness of the senses.”
- BKS Iyengar
Often this sutra is unpacked as an introduction - the announcement of the sutras. “hello, the teachings of yoga.” I have heard many emphasize the word “now,” as though the teachings need to take place in this moment - in the present. This view is not often agreed upon.
Atha does, however “in sanskrit literature, carry the connotation of a prayer both for an auspicious beginning and a successful conclusion to the work which follows.” (TKV Desikachar) For this reason, I do think that the first sutra is beyond an introduction, instead wishing the reader/practitioner success in exploration and recognition of that hidden part of themselves. The use of the word Atha makes the exploration of this the yoga sutras more of a spiritual quest than a topic for discussion - a life path, rather than a philosophy.
The above post is a self-unpacking of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. I am not a professional historian, I am only sharing my thoughts on the topic. The Thoughts on the Yoga Sutras postings came about as preparation for a weekly study group that I attend at Karuna Center for Yoga and Healing Arts (www.karunayoga.com). Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.