Yoga Philosophy for uncertain times – Yogash citta vrtti nirodha (Sutras 1.2)
November 1, 2020
In yoga sutra 1.2, Patanjali gives his famous definition and explains the purpose of yoga. “Yogash citta vrtti nirodha” or yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. Our aim as we practice yoga is to focus on our breath and calm the mind so that we are not distracted from the present moment. The entire asana (or physical) practice is centred around ending the fluctuations of the mind to experience union of the mind, body, and spirit with the Supreme in the present moment. The purpose of yoga is not to control the mind, but to calm its wondering tendencies.
How does yoga help us in uncertain times?
The more we practice, the more we realize the mind lives in two dimensions: Aversion and craving; the future and the past. The mind wants to run away from the unpleasant and gravitates towards the pleasant. The mind is either focused on past memories and regrets or it is distracted by future hopes and worries. Yoga disrupts this dance between the future and the past, aversion and craving, by asking the mind to be still in the present moment. As you practice, you are here now doing exactly what you are doing when you are doing it.
In uncertain times, the mind naturally worries about the future.
The yogi’s response to uncertainty is unique because in uncertain times yoga asks us to accept the present moment as it is without judgement. In uncertain times, yoga asks us to sit with our discomfort and observe the emotions that arise without reacting. As the sky lets the clouds pass through it while maintaining its equanimity, yoga asks us to observe our thoughts and emotions with equanimity. Yoga helps us in uncertain times because it forces us to stay present with our experience whether good or bad without adding the additional suffering that worrying causes.
Regardless of where you find yourself in life today, practicing yoga will help you quiet the chatter in your mind by asking you to observe the noise with compassion and equanimity until one day there is no more noise because you reached samadhi (nirvana). If and when that day comes, you will have actualized sutra 1.2.