What is Yoga?
It is an eight-fold practice that was designed to cease the fluctuations of the mind.
Everything begins in the mind. If you want to see clearly, you need clear vision.Source: Carrera, Jaganath. Inside The Yoga Sutras: A Comprehensive Sourcebook for the Study and Practice of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (p. 1). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.
Sri Swami Satchidananda
The Powerful Mind
Our mind is complex. The mind is not the brain. In our mind is an entire universe of thoughts, perceptions, ideas, desires and beliefs. However, what goes in and out our mind is not our “true” nature. Purusha, our pure self does not come from what the mind can form. It is the nature of each person which is connected and one with the Universe.
Ego (Ahamkara) is one of the mental formations that keep us away from the nature of our true self. This is the idea of how one person should be.
Consider this scene. You, being born as the youngest of the family. When you grow up, you tend to compare yourself with your other siblings. You develop notions about yourself respective of the strengths, the beauty of your other siblings. This is ego. You make mental formations of an unnecessary truth about your own nature.
The truth? The truth is that we belong to the Universe. Everything we need is always within us. If you ever so strongly desire a certain goal or object in life, there is nothing that could stop you from attaining it if you will only put your heart and mind into it. Have you ever heard of that before? Well, that statement couldn’t be any farther from the truth.
Our minds are powerful tools to change our lives. What we form inside our mind, whether a desire or an idea about something, if we believe it to be true, it becomes our personal truth.
Now, let’s go back to yoga.
While we already know the power of the mind, it can also be destructive. With so many thoughts that we have every minute, how would it be easy to make a life changing decision if we aren’t clear headed?
Let’s try a little exercise. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, just pause for a minute. Look at a blank wall close to you. Try to just look at it. You may want to set a minute’s alarm for this. Now, pay attention to the thoughts that you’ll get. How many were there? How diverse?
In this digital age, our thoughts could have already multiplied to a dangerous level because we are fed with multitudes of data everyday and that various sources of information are just available within a finger’s touch. When we are out of sync with our true self, our mind is filled only with information that we might not need.
Yoga is a discipline. It offers tools to discipline the mind to comb through the different thoughts and find the one that serves our purpose. It helps us plug back in to Universal consciousness, a spirituality that feeds our soul.
It is therefore important to understand that Yoga is not merely the postures that you see on Youtube that defines it. Yoga is composed of tools to understand our nature, and to allow us to go back to “basic”.
In ancient text, Yoga came from the word “yuj” which means to yoke or unite. There are several interpretations you could derive from Yoga being the means to unite. Understanding the nature of the mind, it could mean to unite us with peace (a peace of the mind). It is also to unite us as a piece of the Universe, back to its entirety; a means of tuning back in to cosmic awareness.
The asanas (postures) in Yoga is only one aspect (or limb) of this discipline. However, it is usually the easiest to practice. In performing the asanas, we incorporate mindfulness. We tune in to our breaths to quiet the mind. That is why when you start your practice, you have many thoughts in your head and you are not in the present. However, as you progress in your practice, you will notice more presence in your body, becoming more aware of your movement and the breath. This alone will help a person steady the mind and help clear unnecessary thoughts.
It is not a religion
So many of the complexities of the practice of Yoga feel quite conflicting with some religion. The chanting for example, has been taught to be dangerous by some religion.
The practice of Yoga, or even just chanting itself does not invoke a different being of praise. Yoga is about lifting up the true self, it does not offer an idol. Chanting is done to some purpose of psychological and scientific benefit.
Chants trigger our parasympathetic nervous system and puts us in a ready and calm state in order to start our practice. In effect, it is the signal of the separation of the normal state to the start of the class. Consider chanting as singing a song. If chanting were dangerous as others say, then why do we even have songs about death, or suicide or murder? I’d say modern songs that depict stories and that essence is more dangerous than chanting powerful syllables that takes us to better vibrations.
If you are doubtful of the power of a chant, try reverberating “HMMM” and observe how that affects your mood. Does it irritate you? Does it feel good?
Chants are a series of syllables designed to tap or gently drum the different seats of energy within our body and help awaken it. To awaken it, meaning, to bring it back to our awareness and be able to connect with it.
So what’s next?
It is undeniable that we, as humans are both affected by the physical and by subtle energy. This could be better understood as “moods” or even “feelings”. Sometimes a song, a color, a scene could change our perspective, our mood. In turn it affects our actions.
To some people, they are very strong to control these inputs and very well manage the expected outcome of their response (either in terms of emotions, or a reaction). These are usually the well meditated people.
Meditation, is the most common form of mindfulness. When you meditate, you observe your thoughts and start to understand which ones are those that serve you. You train your mind to harness its full capacity by aiding you to make good choices, better responses to the inputs/triggers of the environment.
Yoga is a form of meditation too! And that’s probably good news for those who cannot afford to sit still. This is why the practice of yoga also helps you stay above just being able to do a knee-jerk reaction for all kinds of triggers.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Yoga High”? It’s because it puts the practitioner in a state of bliss, being free from the cessations of the mind.
Be ready to put yourself in an open state to receive these benefits. Let’s do Yoga! We can all be yogis on and off the mat. I’ll be with you in this journey.