I.13 तत्र स्थितौ यात्नोऽभ्यास:

tatra sthitau yatno ‘bhyāsaḥ
tatra sthitau yatnaḥ abhyāsaḥ

“Practice (abhyāsa) is the effort to be steady there.”

With just three words, Patañjali defines abhyāsa. The first word, tatra, is an adverb that means “there.” Where? the reader may well ask, and must thread back to previous sūtras to understand. The “there” that Patañjali refers to could mean nirodha, just mentioned in I.12. It could mean “in the true form of the seer,” as described in sutra I.3.  It could also be understood to be a threading forward in the text to sutra III.1–the “there” might mean whatever place the yogi has committed to placing his awareness: in other words, “there” is the chosen point of focus.

The second word, sthitau (“steadiness”), derives from  sthā, “to stand” (the same root as avasthanam–see sutra I.3). This is an important verb, an important idea, in yoga (and it is cognate with our English words “stand,” “stability,” “establish,” “steady”). In yoga practice, we seek to find our stability and our “standing”–physically, psychologically, emotionally. In the Iyengar tradition, the beginner’s  first class will likely start with the standing pose Tadāsana, and, in the Iyengar practice, it is the standing poses that build strength and steadiness, of body and mind.

Finally, yatnaḥ is effort.  The word is in the first case. It is a noun equivalent with abhyāsa. Thus, abhyāsa IS effort. It is that part of yoga practice that is effort. It is not all of yoga. (See sūtra II.47.)

Further note on grammar: Sthitau is a noun in the seventh case, which is the case of location. To get at the poetry of this phrase, one might translate it, “Abhyāsa is the effort to stay in the place of the heart and mind that is steady, that is yoga.”

….

“Practice is an effort in the direction of establishing oneself in the state of Yoga which is free from all vṛttis or the reactive tendencies of the mind.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 27

“Yoga practice is not limited to formal meditation or prayer. Daily life is the stage upon which vṛttis perform their dance. Therefore our lives–every act–should reflect a clear and steady focus of mind. We won’t make satisfactory progress if we practice control of the mind for an hour a day and then let it restlessly wander during the other twenty-three. Our lifestyle and environment should support our goals. That is why we need to live fully in the moment and to develop attentive focus on whatever task is at hand. That is also Yoga practice.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p.36

Abhyāsa is the effort, the trying, not the result.” –Vyaas Houston

Questions:
• Has yoga practice brought you greater mental and physical stability? Has it improved your perseverance? Your ability to focus?
• How do thoughts of success or failure affect your practice?
• What has helped you find a balance between effort and non-effort? What does an imbalance look like (for you)?

tatra

adverb

“there”

sthitau

feminine noun, 7th case singular

standing, abiding, steadiness (from sthā, “to stand”)

yatnaḥ

masculine noun, 1st case singular

effort, exertion, attempt (from yat, “to try, to endeavor”)

abhyāsaḥ

masculine noun, 1st case singular

practice, repetition (from abhi-, “towards,” + as, “to throw”)

4 thoughts on “I.13 तत्र स्थितौ यात्नोऽभ्यास:

  1. One thing I notice in my practice is having to be so much more attentive to really be present in my body rather than approach my practice with the internal verbal instructions from what I’ve heard, ( although much is valuable). So I have to come back and keep returning to being with myself and sensing myself.

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  2. I like the translation of this sutra given above: “Abhyāsa is the effort to stay in the place of the heart and mind that is steady, that is yoga.” Yoga has given me much steadiness of mind and body and great ability for perseverance. I don’t know which is more difficult to deal with in practice, thoughts of success or failure. Both require detachment from results attained from steadiness of mind. At different times in my life, success or failure can seem more familiar, or comfortable for me to think about. Perhaps a sign of imbalance for me is the recognition of my thoughts more towards success or failure? If practice is considered the effort, would detachment be considered non-effort? In Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, BKS Iyengar says that it is practice and detachment balance each other out. I think for me, simply the practice of asana, and especially pranayama, help to create balance. Also, I appreciate hearing other people’s experiences with finding balance with practice and detachment; it helps me to know that we all experience similar internal struggles, despite our outward experiences appearing very different .

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    • Thank you for your comment. I love a grammar question! Sthitiḥ is the first-case form of this verb, meaning that, if stability were the subject of the sentence, it would have the -iḥ ending (this is a feminine noun that follows the form of all short i feminine nouns). The 7th case ending for all feminine short i nouns is -au. The seventh case describes location: sthitau means “in steadiness.” So, literally, the sūtra translates this way: “Practice is the effort to be in steadiness there.”

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