Yoga Sutras 1.2: Yoga is the Stilling of the Changing States of the Mind — Yogas Chitta Vrtti Nirodah
1.2: Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.
Yogas chitta vritti nirodha
- yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join; same as the absorption in samadhi
- chitta = of the consciousness of the mind-field
- vritti = operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications, changes, or various forms of the mind-field
- nirodhah = control, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, understanding, stilling, quieting, setting aside of
The science of Yoga deals with our relationship between our senses, body-awareness, breath regulation & control, and the stilling of the gross and subtle thought patterns of our minds. It would be wise for a practitioner to think of Yoga as more of a coordinating and setting aside of what is not needed in the mind-filed, not a suppression or repression of thoughts and emotions. We are to feel everything, positive or negative, acknowledge these thoughts, and then let them drift away during asana and meditation practice.
Think of your mind as being one of your favorite surf breaks in the world. When the perfect swells aren’t around, the waves can be small, even unrideable. But, when the perfect swell comes in, the waves can either mean the ride of your life, or disaster. For the inexperienced surfer, making it out past the break during a large swell can be nearly impossible, getting tossed about by the roiling surf. You barely get under one wave, come up gasping for air, and then get demolished by the biggest wave of the set immediately after.
When we first begin Yoga, we are inexperienced in calming the mind, and tossed about by our thoughts much in the same way a surfer is tossed about by the waves. We have to work on going deeper, and getting stronger within our own practice. To be strong enough to swim out past the break, duck dive those monster waves closing in on us, and setting our sights on riding the perfect sized wave for our abilities on the next set.
If we were to progress on the path of being a surfer, we would soon get strong enough to ride all kinds of waves. The same with Yoga as well. One thing to remember is that neither surfing nor Yoga ever truly get any easier, we just get stronger. We learn to pick the right spot in the line-up while surfing, or push ourselves into learning advanced asanas during practice. The same can also be said about life. It never gets any easier, we just get stronger in dealing with whatever comes our way.
By remembering these two main principles that remain at the core of this scientific practice and art, one will greatly increase their deeper understanding of what practicing Yoga truly is: 1) Dedicated practice (Abhyasa) over a long period of time without breaks, which leads the body into stability and tranquility and 2) Non-Attachment (Vairayga) to the entire process of calming the mind, body, and soul; with the ultimate goal being to attain Self-Realization through the practice of Yoga.
- Abhyasa/Practice: Abhyasa means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility (1.13). To become well established, this needs to be done for a long time, without a break (1.14). From this stance the deeper practice continues to unfold, going ever deeper towards the direct experience of the eternal core of our being.
- Vairagya/Non-attachment: The essential companion is non-attachment (1.15), learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self.
They work together: Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way.