yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ.
yogaḥ (yogaś) = yoga (is)
citta = of the mind-stuff, mind field
vṛtti = modifications
nirodhaḥ = restraint.
the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga.
translation and commentary from swami satchitananda
it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that yoga is all about training the body, but when we look into the teachings and history of the practice it becomes clear that asana or postures are such a small part of what we are doing.
in the yoga sutra, yoga is described as the state where the modifications of the mind cease, in other words yoga is the state where the mind is still.
when we watch our minds, even if just for a few moments, we notice how wild it can be. we are very rarely in the moment and a lot of the time we are caught up in our thoughts, stories, plans. running into the future, ruminating over the past. always analysing, criticising, judging. letting the mind run like this causes tension, stress, anxiety and fear.
when we step into our practice what we are really doing is learning to be still. we focus on the body, the alignment, the breath. we become more aware. we become more present. we develop the ability to observe — the sensations in the body, changes in the breath, fluctuations in the mind. slowly there is more space, more distance between the noise and eventually we develop the skill of watching all of the movements, rather than being so pushed and pulled around by them.
one of my favourite ways of thinking about this is like the big blue sky. we watch the clouds come, and we watch them pass away. in the same way we watch the thoughts come ,and watch them pass away. behind the clouds there is space, expansiveness, peace.
we are the sky.
when we understand this — we are free.
we are no longer controlled by our mind, our thoughts or anything that happens to us in life.
so our practice is the training ground. we learn how to face challenge, discomfort, desire, frustration — whatever it is and we practice not getting caught up. not getting carried away. we learn how to be still.
so the next time we face something in our life that is difficult, when we feel like the rug is being pulled from under our feet, when our mind start to race — we know what to do. we pause, relax the body, come back to breath. and come back to the peace that is always within us.