2000 years since being compiled, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras continue to be among the principle texts that Yoga gurus follow. The treatise consists of 196 sutras or threads of ideas or thoughts that interlink and build upon each other.
The sutras are cryptic and unfold their myriad meanings with every reading.
Why should today’s world care about Patanjali’s verses?
Although we think of Yoga primarily as a form of exercise, the truth is it is possibly the earliest character formation self-help book. Stage by stage it helps a practitioner of Yoga build his character through self-discipline and self-awareness.
Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha
Patanjali has divided his treatise into four segments or Padas. Each puts forth its own principles, philosophy and practices.
The first segment is known as the Samadhi Padha. Sama = an even state of mind; dhi = intellect. Hence the Samadhi Padha describes the various dimensions of one’s mental faculties, and all the afflictions that cause a modification of the mind.
The sage goes on to lay down one of his most famous aphorisms.
Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha which translates to “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”.
What does this mean?
We are what we believe. Our beliefs are shaped by our life experiences, the way we have been brought up, and so many circumstances and people who have played significant roles in our lives.
All our thoughts, ideas and beliefs constantly swirl around in our minds, shaping our actions. Often-times when faced with a situation, we tend to react rather than respond to it. What’s the difference?
When we react, we are allowing the external situation to trigger us and usually it will tap into our habitual ways of thinking. This colours the way we perceive the situation, making us say or act in a certain way.
On the contrary if we constantly sift our thoughts and beliefs, letting go of those that are negative, then we will be in a position to better understand what has happened, and the reasons behind it. Rather than being triggered, we put ourselves in a position where we are able to give a more balanced response.
This sifting is of utmost value and this is usually what Yogis do as they move through the various levels of Ashtanga Yoga onto the higher levels that explore the inner world of our minds.
Stage by stage, by first learning the Yamas and Niyamas (principles that guide how we live and how we interact with the world); a consistent Asana practice, together with harnessing the power of the breath through Pranayama techniques, we arrive at Pratayahara. This is the stage where we withdraw our senses from the outer world and start looking inwards. This is followed by Dharana and Dhyana — stages of meditation — and finally leading to Samadhi — oneness with the Supreme Consciousness.
As you can see, Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha (Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind) cannot happen overnight.
One has to work towards it, and Ashtanga Yoga provides the roadmap for it.
Along the way, we learn to discipline ourselves, particularly our senses. Through Asanas we take care of our bodies, ridding ourselves of ailments and all physical issues that can distract us once we sit for meditation. Harnessing the full potential of our breath is another major milestone, both in ridding ourselves of physical ailments as well as preparing the mind for meditation.
Once we are into meditative practices, we begin to understand our purpose in life. We discern the causes for our misery and suffering. We learn to detach from the material world. We reach a state where we begin to focus easily and for longer and longer durations of time. Now we no longer see ourselves as separate from the divine, but rather yearn for unity.
This is why Yoga is a practice that can reward anybody and everybody, whatever their age and stage in life.
To get a taste of authentic Yoga that provides wholistic classes that addresses both the mind and the body, call/Whatsapp us at 971-50-395-5613. Pratimoksha also offers online Yoga classes.
To listen to our founder Lalitha Viswanath’s short talks that introduce Yoga philosophy click on the links below.