According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the definition of yoga is this stillness. Sutras 1.2-4 read:
- Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind.
- When that is accomplished, the seer abides in its own true nature.
- Otherwise, at other times, [the seer] is absorbed in the changing states [of the mind].
Put another way, yoga is quieting the chatter of the mind. It is getting beyond our identification with the ever changing flow of sensation, distraction, thoughts and emotions. It is becoming quiet enough to recognize who we truly are.
These are complicated sutras. I’ve been wrestling with them for sometime now and I continue to do so. They feel incredibly relevant to me, even though they were written thousands of years ago. They speak to the constant busyness that fills our lives and our being. I believe that people are drawn to the practice of yoga because it is the practice of becoming still. We don’t often give ourselves permission to just be quiet, to center ourselves and attempt to focus our mind in one direction. When we do, our body relaxes, our breath eases and our mind is able to let go of some of the tensions, attachments and aversions we’re constantly struggling with. We experience a deep sense of peace. Of course this inner peace is always present within us, but we have to take the time to notice it. This is why we call yoga a practice.
Sutras 1.13-14 read:
- Practice is the effort to be fixed in concentrating the mind.
- Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time.
The practice of yoga takes effort, commitment and passion. And an entire lifetime. It isn’t easy, but I believe that the fruits of practice–deep inner peace and true self knowing–are worth it.