Yogas chitta vrtti nirodha:
“Control of the modifications of the mind is called yoga. ”
Patanjali, Yoga Sutras 1.2
There are many commentaries on the Yoga Sutras by Pantanjali. The Sutra’s or ‘strings’ take us step by step through yoga. In the first sections of the Sutras he explains what yoga is. In 1.2 he defines yoga as the “control of the modifications of the mind”. Nirodha means control however it doesn’t mean suppression; it means channeling or regulating it.
Whether moving in asana or sitting still we are as yogi’s watching and observing our minds; watching it like ripples of water and observing the thought process. Yoga means yoke or union. In a union you are joining two things together. Many times I refer to joining the mind and body.
What is the mind though? We have many parts to our mind; the ego, intellect and desire. We can go through many parts of our thought process in our mind within an instant and not even be aware of it. It is through our practice though of observing this that allows us to observe and create awareness. Why do this? One reason is to train our minds – just as we do our bodies. The second is because mankind creates a lot of circumstances that exist from our external environment. Nothing happens in the body that didn’t happen in the mind first.
Furthermore as Pantanjali later writes in the Sutras that we are weaken by our afflictions which are ignorance, egoism, likes, dislikes and the instinct of self-preservation (what we believe is our self; the body). We are looking to let go and not attach to these afflictions.
For example if the mind likes an orange, it gets itself attached to this fruit, as it derives pleasure from eating it. The mind often runs after things it has been associated with from experiences in the past; good or bad. These are all faults we have. We are looking to watch the mind, notice the emotions, and also let go to allow change to happen. (Note: I’m not saying don’t enjoy Oranges – just notice your minds reactions and attachments. How do you react when there aren’t Oranges? Could you try something else and let go?
Even when I talk about the awareness of the mind it is interesting to have a student in yoga class who will make a comment such as “You have to be kidding me”. It is this attitude and thought process though you are looking to change. This is just as much a part of yoga as trying to stretch your body.