After the summer break I have gradually got back into the rhythm of work, or have I? I am teaching again and that has got off to a good start, but I have not written a blog for a month and the inspired moment seems to elude me – or rather those moments came when I was in the wrong place to write it down! How many of you recognise this? So this morning it struck me that when I am devoid of that spark of inspiration then the answer is to go back to the beginning…
Yoga starts with Patanjali and the sutras he wrote describing yoga more than 4,000 years ago: and the sutra I quote most often when explaining to someone what yoga is all about is the second line:
Yoga is the cessation (or control) of the fluctuations of the mind.
The first point to make is that this line highlights that yoga is fundamentally about our mind. Whatever thoughts we have about what we think yoga is, whether it is “a good stretch”, or “a way of improving my core”, for reducing stress, relaxing and so forth, all these are by-products of the practice which is primarily about our mind. “Healthy body healthy mind” is not a yogic expression but it stems from the same thinking about what is good for us.
Someone who attended my class last week, for her first time, commented afterwards that by the end of the class she felt a good connection with her body and breathing, she felt balanced, and as a result she felt better for it, calmer and more relaxed. I replied that she had got the essence of yoga… and in her first class.
The physical exercises and the breathing exercises are all part of the process by which we re-establish a connection with ourselves. One of the most common translations of yoga is that it means “union”. When things are bad we often feel separate and alone, disconnected from ourselves let alone the world around us.
Through the tools and methods of our yoga practice we train our mind, body and breathing to become unified, because the first yoga teachers thousands of years ago understood that whatever is happening in our life if we feel “whole” we are better placed to respond accordingly to whatever life throws at us. And as many of us notice, life does tend to throw unwanted thoughts, experiences and dramas our way.
As the line from the above sutra indicates, the solution is controlling our mind, and yoga understands that our body and our breathing will influence the state of our mind, and vice versa. We might think this is not the case, but see how our body becomes tight and tense when we are worried or angry, and our breathing becomes erratic and shortened when angry or stressed.
So whatever is happening in our life, the way to improve how we feel is to focus on our body, our mind and breath, using the exercises yoga offers us; and this includes asanas (physical postures), pranayamas (breathing exercises) and dhyana (meditation); to reduce the fluctuations of our mind and as a result bring us to a place of balance and union (yoga).
To read more see some of my blogs on this topic:
A blog written in 2010 about the above mention line in the sutras:
Yoga is Meditation – https://www.yogabristol.co.uk/2017/03/13/yoga-is-meditation/
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