Students come to yoga for a variety of reasons: physical, mental, and spiritual. Regardless of why you started practicing, your entire being benefits. It’s easy to focus on mastering the asanas or physical postures first. But traditionally, yoga’s primary intention is to gain control over your mind.
The seminal text on yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, were compiled centuries ago and the wisdom proves true today. The Sutras are divided into 4 Padas or chapters which provide a pathway to journey toward Samadhi or enlightenment.
The pillar of the entire text is stated in Sutra 1.2 Chitta vritti nirodaha. In a nutshell this means that yoga is the ability to direct the mind without distraction or interruption. Yoga equals sustained attention.
Many translations claim this means working toward a cessation of mind activity, but that is incorrect. In a state of yoga, the mind is active. Yoga equals sustained attention. If you’ve ever had a tough time meditating, you know how challenging this can be. While this topic could fill volumes, we’ll point out a few highlights of the principles of mastering your mind.
It’s vital to understand this work takes discipline and time. It’s explained further in Sutras 1.12-1.16 that it takes effort or practice (Abhyasa) and relinquishment/detachment (vairagya) to overcome the barriers to a calm, open mind.
The fundamental obstacles to yoga, to Samadhi, are called the Kleshas (major impediments) and are outlined as the roots of suffering in Sutras 2.3–-2.11. All of these are mistaken perceptions or Avidya. Avidya is ignorance or essentially the fundamental inability to see things as they are. The practice of yoga is moving away from these misperceptions toward Viveka, the ability to discern and see clearly.
When we delve into our yoga and meditation practices, we quickly discover how distracted we really are. We generally have the same series of redundant thoughts circling around in our minds, over and over and over again. Most of them are not particularly interesting either. Sorry!
Learning to quiet the monkey mind, or as Patanjali put it “chitta vritti nirodaha” (to still the fluctuations of the mind)—we all have a pack of wild monkeys zooming around in our heads.
When we settle into the present moment through our yoga practice, we are eliminating worries of the past and anxiety for the future and we are just feeling the now. At the heart of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga path, is the concept that a steadier mind is a clearer mind. This week, our classes center on the concept of creating more clarity and stability. Check them out and quiet those monkeys!
1. Kylie Larson - Fuggetaboutit & Flow
2. Caitlin Rose Kenney - Fluid Body, Open Mind
3. Celest Pereira - Yoga for Strength & Focus
4. Ron Alexander - Mindful Meditations for Creative Transformation
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