The Word Yoga is actually the abbreviation for Yogasana. It derives from the root word of “YOG” and is defined as union. This word “Yoga” is often being interpreted as a popular subject in this modern times; it is a subject for mundane welfare, sense of wellness and fitness. Unfortunately, many of us failed to see “YOG” as its very original meaning. Yoga, which is often referred to only asana practice in this modern times is only a very small portion of the philosophy. The subject of Yog teaches one to restrain the fluctuations in the consciousness, namely “the mind” and it is a subject for those who seek liberation and freedom, and this is often not reminded and taught in a “Yoga class”.
“Yoga” in modern times has definitely become an interesting and favourable subject to many in pursuit of physical health. It is often taken as a subject for the mundane welfare and sense of well-being, fitness and beauty. Did you think about “the mind” when you enrol yourself in a yoga class? Or was “having a calm and peaceful mind” the reason that you sign up for yoga class? It is amazing to see that yoga teachers have inspired people by bringing them not only to physical wellness and a vision of holistic lifestyle.
But is that all Yoga has to offer? Stretching and bending? Sweating and feeling good? Or perhaps impressing others with difficult asanas? We should instead focus less on reaching out to our toes but the state of mind while on our way down to the toes! We should adopt the more important aspect of Yoga, which is the spiritual practices; that will allow us to live in harmony, with loving kindness to ourselves and others. I think it is important that we all should reach our toes, bend in upward bow, and stretch in downward dogs but let us all do it with humility and kindness.
“The mind”, do you know is the most powerful instrument? It may transform you, as well as to destroy you! That’s why it is essential to “mind” your practice. The great yogis and ancient sages have stressed on “Yogah Citta Vritti Nirodhah” being the second verse in the sutras, saying “Yoga is the cessation of movements in the mind”. The nature of our mind is to think, we cannot stop the mind from thinking, can we? The mind constantly swings like a pendulum from past to future, from future to past, has the mind ever stayed at the present moment? Maybe yes, but we are not aware of that state! Hence, yoga practice helps one to be mindful, and the practice will take you to the present moment where life truly exist.
So how do I practice Yoga for my mind? Sage Patanjali gives a twofold remedy for controlling our busy mind. “Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah” being the very core practice of Yoga. Abhyasa means repetitively or vigorously practising, vairagya means detachment, so what and how do we practice? We learn how to detach, we learn how to be free from desires and learn to cultivate detachment. We detach from things that stop us progressing in life. Detachment can only be learnt through one’s will-power, which is the mind! Hence, the subject of Yoga is related to the Mind!
Sage Patanjali says practice and detachment are the means to still the movements and consciousness. In other words, to free the mind from the fluctuations and to reach the state of stillness, one is expected to practice the disciplines intensely and repetitively. Stillness here refers to the stillness of the mind, it is said that the fluctuations of mind, whether it be painful or non-painful, favourable or unfavourable thoughts and emotions are to be controlled through this repeated ancient discipline given in the Sutras. The yogis told us through their experiences, the long and uninterrupted, alert and repetitive yogic practice is the fundamentals to cease the fluctuations of the mind, and when this ancient discipline is continued repetitively and vigorously, the profound wisdom is gained. Hence, the mind will experience bliss and calmness.
When it comes to applying this ancient discipline in our modern neo-yoga environment, our mind will now play a trick! We wonder how “authentic” is this yoga practice? Perhaps, you have often heard this “I didn’t sweat much from that class”. The quality of a yoga class is ironically often judged based on how much calories one is able to burn and how much sweat one can have from a class. But one should observe on how much attention that goes to the work. Attention means concentration of the mind, or perhaps a more familiar term in Yoga will be Mindfulness. Being able to stay mindfulness, calmed and relaxed in a yoga class is the quality of the class.
So now that we have understood the relationship between our mind and the yoga classes. We should try to practice this, if one follow this ancient yogic practice given in the Yoga Sutras, one will have the correct understanding of the practice and the subject. Now it is our duty to study them and try applying these ancient philosophy in our asana practice even while we are struggling in reaching our toes…
When the mind is distracted during our asana practice, try to breathe more! Observe your breath, be mindful, feel each and every of your breathe in your practice. Perhaps this will help you to stay connected with your breathe and mind, as practice of breath control (Pranayama) leads to a pure mind. Such mind is fit for concentration and meditation. When one sustains and maintains the concentration, in such state, the mind loses all the fluctuations and impurities and merge into one single state of being, and the mind is now free from distraction, and when this happen, you will understand the subject better.