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Yoga is meant to be a practice that takes one on an inward journey to the Self. It is designed to help quieten the mind and allow it to experience stillness. This meditative aspect of Yoga is what has been forgotten in a worldview that has reduced Yoga practice to a fitness regime

Bandana Tewari

Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha

Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind

Yoga Sutra 1.2

The profound brevity of this sentence, written by Patanjali, takes us immediately into the heart of what Yoga practice is about and what it’s meant to achieve. To cease the thoughts that consume our every living moment, and instead be ‘thoughtless’ in order to reach a fulcrum of silence and awareness.

We have created a world where we live with imagined foes and fears, where the cycle of time weaves looming shadows of memory that have us clinging to the past like wailing children to our mothers. The ‘fluctuations of our mind’ is that continuous ‘mind-chatter’ that swings our thoughts and perceptions like a pendulum between past and future, regret and anticipation, yesterday and tomorrow, hoodwinking the reality of the only moment that matters - NOW.

Let’s start with the mind. To cease the activities of the mind (the monkey brain), we need to understand it and see how consumed we are with the constructs of time and space, and how outward our quests are in order to declare ourselves successful, happy and liberated. The inner monologue, which in healthy doses can define our emotions, our purpose and mental agility, can also easily turn excessive, creating a continual and fierce mental noise that can overwhelm our daily activities. This noise can consume us as we play out epic dramas in our heads that swing like monkeys between the past and future. We find ourselves over-analysing, doubting and loathing, not just situations around us, but our very own beings. We get into a ruthless loop of thinking and over-thinking, which takes away the magic of the present and the power of pure presence. Through childhood we have been socially conditioned to re-live and playout negative narratives like gramophones stuck in a loop. We have become servants of our mind.

So, this one sentence of wisdom - Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha, goes to the heart of the question and lays the ground for calming the toxic mind, that monstrous thought-machine. If the mind is tamed we will resonate to another cosmic frequency. As Henry David Thoreau, the American philosopher and poet said, “What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen”.

Those who have read and reflected deeply on the Yoga Sutras say that Yoga is not a religion nor a philosophy but is in fact a methodology to be in the ‘Here and Now’. According to Osho, the mystic, “Yoga is a method to come to a non-dreaming mind…not to jump ahead of your being. Yoga means to encounter reality as it is.” He argues that Yoga is concerned with your whole being, with your roots that involves both death and new life.

Those who have read and reflected deeply on the Yoga Sutras say that Yoga is not a religion nor a philosophy but is in fact a methodology to be in the ‘Here and Now’. According to Osho, the mystic, “Yoga is a method to come to a non-dreaming mind…not to jump ahead of your being. Yoga means to encounter reality as it is.” He argues that Yoga is concerned with your whole being, with your roots that involves both death and new life.

There is no doubt that Yoga has taken many convoluted meanings since it was introduced to the West less than 50 years ago. Some practices have veered off course to the extent that it goes completely outside the realm of Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha, the mother lode mantra. It has morphed into the very machine it was intended to conquer. Yoga was never about a fitness regiment, a mouthful of facetious aphorisms (‘downward dog and happy baby’), or a practice that finds itself increasingly, and salaciously coupled with absurd partners— goat yoga, surfboard yoga, wine yoga, beer yoga (yes they are all touted as new-age yoga practices). Let us not even start with the exotification of Yoga which paradoxically is the very reason it has become so popular globally as today more than 300 million people practice it worldwide. Also, who would have imagined that Yoga would materialize into a global behemoth worth approx. USD 80 billion! There was a glimpse of the absurdity of this ‘industry’ way back in the 60s, when Swami Vishnudevananda was explaining a headstand to the Beatles at the LA Airport and Ringo Starr scoffed: “I can’t even stand on my feet, how shall I get onto my head?” Yoga enthusiasts need to see the irony in this.

But for those who understand the discipline of Yoga, the ‘no-mind’ rigor of Yoga asanas will tell you kindly, but effusively, that Yoga is not about the perfection of the pose - the asana. It is not a competitive sport that boasts of athleticism and showmanship. It isn’t about body-beauty worship, and it certainly isn’t about fashionable yoga clothes. In fact, it is the opposite of these corporeal interpretations. The discipline of Yoga is about stilling the mind that paves the way for non-identification. It is about distancing the mind in order for the ‘witnessing self’ to emerge. This ‘witnessing-self’ is non-judgemental and non-condemning but it welcomes the totality of existence. All forms of Yoga are means to tame minds that have become the masters of our lives. We need to change this power balance.

Yoga meditation allows us to contemplate nature vs. nurture. Nature is natural and cannot be taken away from you; but nurture can be a series of habits that needs to be broken in order for nature, our natural state to flourish.

Yoga is the journey of the Self,
to the Self, through the Self.

The Bhagavad Gita

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