Sutra 1.1: What is Yoga

1.1 Now, instruction in Union

This is it, this is the very first sutra, but it's one of the most important.  One of the meanings of Yoga in Sanskrit is union.  It also means "Yoking", or the attaching of a plow harness to an animal. Specifically in this context, it means the complete realization of the Atman.  As I explained in my previous post about the connection between Vedic Astrology and Yoga, I spoke of the Atman as analogous to the soul.  This is about as close to an English definition that can be found.  A closer definition is that part of pure conciseness that lies at the heart of every separate entity that makes up part of the universal whole.  Yoga is the process of removing all the layers of being placed between our material awareness and the awareness of this pure, untainted part of the higher conciseness.

This sutra is so important because it does one thing that carries out through the entirety of Yogic practice: The intent to DO.  Simply by reading this, you are declaring a conscious intent to practice Yoga, weather or not you even read beyond this point.  "Now" is very important.  So important that Patanjali made it the first word.  "To declare the intent to seek instruction on living in nowness" is how I see it.  In later sutras, we will study how consciousness only exists in a state of the moment and how thoughts of past and future are not part of awareness itself.  

When the guru would teach his students, they would sit at his feat listening to each set of instruction. A general session would consist of a scriptural reading, then the guru's explanation of that reading. This is called Satsang in Sanskrit, and continues to this day in most major religions.