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Relationships With Others in YS 1.33

Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra YS 1.33 - Relationships

I wrote a blog about Yoga and Relationships a year ago which explains how the word Yoga literally means the ‘yoking’, or linking two or more principles. This fascinates me and touches all the work I do - teaching yoga and wellbeing courses, and some consultancy work. It also impacts me on a personal level too, of course.

The consultancy work is mostly leadership, management and communication training, which is all about better relationships. I love how my work overlaps!

In Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra there are only two sutras about relationships with other people - the rest is largely about the relationship between the mind and the true self (purusa).

Many yoga teachers, and keen students, will have come across The Eight Limbs of Yoga or Astanga Yoga. This comes in chapter two of Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra and gives us the method, or the action we must take. It is called Kriya Yoga in Sanskrit. The first of those eight limbs – the Yama – is about our relationship with others.

The only other reference to relationships with people is in chapter one, sutra 1.33, which is offered as a solution to the obstacles (antarāya) to practice. This sutra offers an essential cleansing practice for the mind.

I find this sutra hugely supportive when I am struggling with certain people. Most of us will have experienced that feeling over the past two years, due to the pandemic, and may be renegotiating how we are with others in a post-pandemic world.

The advice is simple:

adopt an attitude of…

towards people who are…

​friendliness / care

content / pleasant


suffering / unfortunate

joy / happiness

successful / virtuous

detachment / equanimity

impure / immoral

Patañjali says that adopting these attitudes will bring clarity and peace in the mind and keep us on track, like a whole other mini practice to still the mind (nirodha). It is important to remember though, as in all Yoga, it is about practising these attitudes.

This really is precious advice about our social behaviour. However, nothing will change for us simply by knowing this; we must meditate on it and put it into practice.

This sutra is the theme for my yoga classes this term. Students are embodying this by moving and practising in different ways. The postures are familiar but sideways movements and opening modifications reflect a different way of being. It’s a divergent and new way of approaching āsana (postures).

I must give credit to Brené Brown too – I adore her work and read her latest book over the Christmas holidays. In ‘Atlas of the Heart’ she describes 87 emotions, and it was her descriptions of love, joy and compassion which inspired me to teach Yoga Sutra 1.33. Her definitions are so tangible, for example:

Compassion is fuelled by understanding and accepting that we’re all made of strength and struggle – no one is immune to pain or suffering. Compassion is not a practice of ‘better than’ or ‘I can fix you’ – it’s a practice based in the beauty and pain of shared humanity.”

Like Brené Brown, I also love Dolly Parton (the three of us should probably be friends) and a description of joy towards those who are successful is beautifully illustrated in a podcast they did together.

Dolly describes driving home one day in 1992 with the radio on when she heard a spoken voice say, “If I should stay…” She thought she was going to crash the car. It was the first time she heard Whitney Houston sing “I Will Always Love You”, the song Dolly wrote in 1973. She had to pull off the road because she had such an overwhelming feeling which she could only describe as pure joy. She says she had never felt a greater feeling of joy than hearing Whitney Houston singing her song for the first time.

This feeling matches Patanjali’s advice towards people who are successful, and I don’t think there is a better wish for someone you care about than “I wish you joy and happiness. But above all this I wish you love.”

It can be hard to adopt a new attitude, especially with those people with whom we seem to always react incorrectly. I would suggest you pick just one of the four attitudes above, or someone who fits one of the four types of people described, and see if you can practise that attitude for a week or two.

I wish YOU joy and happiness.

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