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Dear Jenni: YSP 1:36

Mental stability also stems from serenity linked to luminous lucidity.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:36 – Bouanchaud translation.

Bouanchaud’s translations are sometimes a bit awkward for the native English speaker. I think this was translated from Sanskrit to French and then to English but more or less, we get the point. He pretty much nails it in the final sentence of this commentary: “The development of serenity without self-complacency leads to the yoga state”.

And that’s what we’re after – that elusive state of wellbeing and wholeness and connection known as the “State of Yoga”. For me, it’s a bit of a Shangra La story, or maybe the Lost World of Atlantis. I’ve never been to this state so I have no proof that it exists. For the record, I’ve never been to Paris either and can’t prove it exists but I’m working on the theory that it probably does. It’s the same with the ‘state of yoga”. I’m working on the notion that it probably exists and that while I may never get there, it still has its own independent impact on reality.

Lucidity is defined as something that has the property of being clear; easily understood; mentally rational; sane; bright, luminous, translucent or transparent. In short, the mental stability we associate with the state of yoga comes from being able to think clearly. In short, in spite of the marketing efforts of the International Yoga Asana Championships, yoga is still NOT about the postures. It’s about training the mind.

The state of Yoga is not about how far you can go in Camel pose or how long you can stand on your head, if you can ever stand on your head. The state of yoga is marked by (among other things) your ability to maintain serenity when faced with suffering and distress. This is why the Niyamas, part of the ethical foundations of yoga, encourage those of us seeking the state of yoga to cultivate the quality of samtosha (contentment).

Part of thinking clearly has to be about jettisoning some of the narratives of the ego. I know I can get completely wrapped up in the machinations of my ego – my likes, my dislikes, my fears, my hopes, my wishing for the world to be a certain way, my refusal to see the world in a way that doesn’t fit my mental construction of how it should be.

For me, so much of yoga is about stripping away the layers and layers of these accumulated ego-narratives. It’s like having an old chandelier, encrusted with decades of grease and dust and cobwebs. Even with new light bulbs, the light is dingy and doesn’t chase away the shadows, so we undertake to clean it. We gather an accumulation of materials to help us with the task at hand: a bucket, water, a ladder, ammonia, rags and sponges and newspapers. No one material is better than the others but they need to be used together to wipe away the dirt. Slowly and with some persistent effort, the layers of junk get stripped away, leaving just the clear crystal of the original chandelier. Now it can shine forth with the light within to illuminate all that is around it.

This is the nature of yoga. It is not JUST the asana and it is not JUST the pranayama and it is not JUST the pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) that brings us to the state of yoga anymore than JUST the ladder or JUST the water or JUST the rag cleaned the chandelier.

Yoga is about the mind and rediscovering the serenity that comes from lucid thinking – the ability to think rationally, sanely, clearly. It’s about honouring our own deep wisdom that transcends the ego narratives.

Both Jenni and Christine have already weighed in on this subject. Be sure to check out their perspective on this sutra.

Thanks for reading and Namaste,



About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

2 responses »

  1. Hi Kate
    I’m soo glad that it’s not only me that sometime think the language is – well, I really need to do a brain rotation, to get it 🙂 but rotations are gifts soo I’m kind of gratefull. So the French guy translates the sanskrit into english (or french) than the Danish-Swedish woman reads it and translates it into jennilanguage – man! am I luck if I get it right 🙂 But I’m grateful for the unfolding of his understanding that follows. It’s been great to work with perspectives. Love jenni

  2. Yes, I always thought Bouanchaud’s translation could use a bit of lucidity myself. I know it’s the preferred translation in Viniyoga circles, probably because Bouanchaud was/is a student of Desikachar’s…. but Mother of Pearl !!!

    Brain rotations!!! Good one!! what a perfect description for the tool that’s needed.


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