A yogi knows how to practice Yoga correctly, and resorts to solitude where things are not flitting around in his consciousness, distracting him with desires and creating attachments.
Desireless and unattached, firm in the knowledge of the mysteries, the yogi always practices yoga alone and in solitude.
A yogi knows and understands the mysteries and how to practice yoga correctly. He resorts to solitude because he is always engaged in this practice, and solitude insures his success. Yoga comes easily when desirable things are not flitting around in his consciousness, distracting him, stirring up desires and creating attachments.
Desire and attachment are the two most difficult things that confront the yogi, so he abandons them by staying away from them, and surrendering himself to God/Truth in solitude.
Establishing himself in a clean place that can be relied upon, not to high and not too low, placing himself on kusha grass covered with a tiger skin and a cloth…..
The yogi lives alone in order to be able to rely on solitude, in a clean dwelling that is not too grand not not too humble, not too big and not too small. In this place he meditates on a mat of kusha grass overlaid with a tiger skin and a cloth.
Another translation is ‘black antelope’. Both are traditional mats for yogis. I have taken the liberty of choosing the tiger skin for our translation, as my own lineage is Shaivite, and in this tradition Lord Shiva is said to have used a tiger skin. But what does this mean?
Icons of gods and goddesses show them as riding or sitting on various animals or their skins to indicate that they have mastery over the quality represented by that animal. For instance: Lord Shiva sits on a tiger skin, suggesting that he has overcome the aggressive quality of the tiger.
Riding on a live animal suggests that the god or goddess is able to use that quality for their own purposes. For instance: Durga rides a tiger, or in some cases a lion. She uses this quality to destroy obstacles on behalf of the gods (us). Garuda, who dines on snakes (desires), is the mount of Lord Vishnu, the sustainer of life. Garuda is a large, golden human-birdlike creature, suggesting ‘flying in the air’ (khechari) as the means of prana going upward to sustain life.
Kusha grass is a grass with long pointed stalks used in religious ceremonies. Why? It certainly sounds uncomfortable.
First we have to remember when this was written—certainly a time before yoga mats!—and assume that there is something special about kusha grass.
Compounded with the word kusha in this verse, is uttara, meaning ‘upward (like stalks of grass), superior, northern, left’ and ‘most powerful, most excellent’. This mat is placed below the tiger skin, suggesting a base, or foundation, for the practice of yoga that is superior, north, left and the most powerful and excellent.
In the body, left is north and the face is east. We all face east (the senses are in the east, the face)—the sun rises in the east and with its light we can ‘see’, perceive. If you were to stand up right now and face east, north would be on your left, up.
This is a very deeply hidden message that the left-handed path is the most powerful and superior path. It is hidden so well because it is so susceptible to misunderstanding and has been practiced incorrectly at various points in history. Because humankind thinks that one must always be in control and never surrender, and believes it to the bone, this path is almost impossible to find in its authentic form in this day and age.
A garment or a cloth is a covering, meaning that all of this is covered, not immediately apparent, and hidden from the uninitiated. So we should consider ourselves very fortunate indeed, for having the opportunity to get these teachings straight from Lord Krishna, as we eavesdrop on his conversation with Arjuna.
There in that place, sitting or lying down, the mind and senses subdued by focus on one thing, he practices yoga for the purpose of self-purification.
The yogi is now ready for his practice. He may sit or lie down. Because he is a renunciate—he has set aside desires and attachments and surrendered himself to God/Truth—kriyas (purifying actions) occur spontaneously, and yoga (union) comes naturally of its own accord:
The focus being internally directed to one thing, the senses are withdrawn (pratyahara) and the energy concentrated (dharana), leading to a meditative state (dhyana) and the peaceful equanimity of sameness (samadhi), which is found only in the North.
Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),