when in doubt do yoga

The most often quoted and literally translated Shloka from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – a key wisdom text which is not protected by copyright or subject to royalties! It is normally translated to mean a quieting of the mind.

But what indeed is this quieting of the mind? Why is it required? How is it to be achieved? In what way does Yoga help? All normal questions arise in all our minds as we listen to most of the Yoga instructors mention this verse often during class.

Think of a Shloka as a slogan – short and catchy!  While the above Shloka may not win over Nike’s Just do it perhaps, it resonates with millions of practicing Yogis around the world.

The human mind according to Yogic philosophers consists of 4 parts – Manas, Buddhi, Ahamkara that together form the Citta.

Manas identifies with external stimuli.

Buddhi is the intellect – discriminating and categorizing incoming impressions.

Ahamkara is the ego that filters everything from the angle of I/Me/Mine.

The sum total of the above forms the Citta – a vast storehouse of conscious and subconscious. Although confusingly, the above terms are used interchangeably, even by the Masterly

Patanjali, he carefully selected Citta while defining Yoga. Sometimes, Citta is also referred to as a Heart-Mind.

Patanjali discerned the need to quell or cultivate the mind in order to achieve a higher objective and defined Yoga as a means to provide the method for this journey.

Vrittis are essentially the whirling of the mind or distractions. This whirling or flux of fleeting thoughts prevents focus. In Yoga, Vrittis are identified into 5 elements

  1. Correct knowledge (pramana)
  2. Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya)
  3. Imagination or fantasy (vikalpa)
  4. Sleep (nidra)
  5. Memory (smrti)

The existence of Vrittis obscures the view of our real self and requires to be calmed. One of the best analogies here is a letter enclosed in an envelope. The contents are secure inside with nothing going out or coming in. It is this state of focus without distraction that is called Nirodah!

Yoga then is a state of union with our object of focus without letting any outside influence disturb the focus or letting the focus shift outside of our object of attention. In fact, the practice of Yoga establishes such a firm relationship with our object of focus such that we do not even realize that there are distractions within and without. Such a relationship or connection can only be established with a constant awareness from our heart that overcomes our intellect and senses. Such a supreme state of being can only come about with a process of self-training through Yoga to essentially see the bottom of a lake to find the true self (Atman)

BKS Iyengar says that Yoga is both the means and the end. Yoga offers one abundant paths to find peace amidst the bombardment of modern life.

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