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Sutra Study: finding common threads & uniting all people

IYAC/ACYI recently held its 2019 conference and AGM in Winnipeg. Inspired by the Yoga Sutras, before each asana session, Senior Teachers Leslie Hogya and Judith Mirus shared some thoughts with us.

Below, are Leslie’s personal reflections about creating and delivering these ‘Sutra Talks’.

At the conference in Winnipeg, Judith Mirus and I had a few minutes before each asana class to reflect on the Sutras. We were meeting in the Human Rights Museum. Thus, before the first talk, having just spent time there, I was feeling tremendous emotion after seeing videos of the effects of the residential schools on Canada’s first peoples, and many other human rights abuses. 

The word ‘sutra’ means ‘thread’.  I was affected by the links that unite all people, the threads that interweave us, no matter our race, age, sex, or country of origin.  

Preparing for these talks, I had found an article by Geeta Iyengar in an old issue of Yoga Rahasya. On first reading, I thought, this is really helpful. The second reading, I had a lot of questions about the implications of various terms.  And I kept re-reading it and discovering more in it every time. 

The article, which is subtitled : Ashta Vritti Nirodha or, loosely, ‘calming the eight disturbances’.  Geeta addresses why Guruji didn’t directly teach Chitta Vritti Nirodha. He said it is because we don’t know what our Chitta is, so how can we control it? But we do know something about our arms and legs, the organs of actions the Karmendriyas. We learn to stand up in the asanas, so we must start there. The Karmendriyas are linked to the yamas. 

Explaining the third limb, asana, Geeta talks about Snayu Vritti Nirodha. ‘Snayu’ refers to our muscles and ligaments, our tissues that control body movements. The foundation of all of our practices comes from the study of all eight limbs of yoga. 

I ended my last talk at the conference by reflecting on why we want to still these fluctuations.  I cited some research on how technology is affecting our brains. We are losing our ability to concentrate. Apparently, in studies, researchers have discovered we could concentrate for 12 minutes about ten years ago. Our ability to concentrate has dropped to three minutes today. 

The good news is that to counter the effect of too much exposure to technology, the antidotes are sitting and cultivating stillness, meditation, and watching the breath. Using our tools learned in yoga can keep us healthy in many different ways. 


  • Iyengar, Geeta, “Astanga Yoga-Ashta Vritti Nirodha”,  Yoga Rahasya Vol 15. No 2, 2008. Pg. 13. 
  • Lafayette String Quartet. This quartet as a group teaches at the University of Victoria and every year they sponsor a health forum.   The 2019 theme was ‘Health in the digital age’. 
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