This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)
A few weeks ago I did an Instagram poll and the majority of the responses wanted me to talk about more things yoga. No topics, in particular, were mentioned but it seems there are people interested in yoga and have no idea where to start.
So let’s start at the very beginning.
What is yoga?
According to Wikipedia, yoga is an old discipline from India that uses breathing techniques, exercise, and meditation.
I think most of us would agree with this. Somewhere down the line yoga became associated with fancy inversions and poses that require lots of flexibility on beach resorts in the latest brand-name yoga pants. Why? because, capitalism.
Sooo what exactly IS yoga?
The Yoga Sutra by Patanjali explains this in one sutra:
Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah
Yoga is straining the activities of the mind.
If you read this and the understanding of yourself, yoga, the entire world, this universe, downloads into you, than, you’re set. You don’t need any of the things Wikipedia has listed. There’s no need for breathing techniques, exercise, or meditation.
Now, for the rest of us unenlightened folks, we need some explanation. So let’s dive in.
The origin of the word ‘yoga’
The root word for yoga comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, meaning to join, to yoke, and/or to unite. It was the thing that connected cows to carts so they can pull them. Yoga means to unite your own consciousness with the universal consciousness. It’s the idea of becoming one with the universe.
How do we stop the activities of the mind?
We may never know. Actually, we do. Simply put, stop thinking or feeling anything. Easier said than done for sure. It’s not a straight forward journey, but we have ‘road maps’ left for us. This is what sacred text like the Yoga Sutra, Bhagavad Gita and Hatha Yoga Praditika are. Everything we need to know for the journey is written.
Yoga Sutra Chapter 1.2
This is where the line ‘Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah’ comes from. To put it in plain terms:
Yoga – union
Chitta – the mind
Vritti – the thoughts
Niruddha – absolute suspension of activity
Our minds, our chitta is in a scattered state most of the time, and creates countless amounts of vrittis, thoughts every minute. The entire book of the Yoga Sutra explains to us the philosophy and the action steps to get to the state of no activities in our mind.