Yoga Is a State of Mind
Today is International Yoga Day and our social media feeds begin to evidence signs of overload by hundreds of posts of all kinds in commemoration of this celebration. International Yoga Day is, in fact, a relatively new festivity begun in 2015 by the Government of India with a two-fold idea in mind: to remind citizens of India of the health benefits of the practice at a time when Yoga there seemed to be in slow decline, and to remind the rest of the world of where exactly this millennium-old practice once ‘originally’ sprung from.
With the worldwide spread of Yoga as a philosophy and physical science and the proliferation of myriads of styles, methods, and increasingly subjective ways of doing ‘something yogic’ everywhere, it’s good to have a day in the year where we all agree to go inwards and reflect on the nature of our practice, our overall state of mind and ––as a result of these two things put together–– the actual quality of our lives. It’s always good to take stock of where we are at at any given point and figure out a way for our practice to be of even more service both to ourselves and the world.
We at ACEBE want to keep today’s entry concise, which is why we’ve decided to use the occasion to remind us all that ––beyond the physical prowess of the postures you will see in many of those commemorative social media posts today–– real Yoga is, and will always be, a state of mind. And this is most important. Yoga is a state of mind; a state of union of our fractured awareness; a state of heightened awareness of Self and others experienced at all levels, all the time.
In Sanskrit, sage Patanjali put this in four simple words: "Yoga chitta vritti nirodha" (Samadhi Pada 1.2). Which means that ‘Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.’ But what does this mean? What does it mean to ‘cessate the fluctuations of one’s mind’? Put really shortly, to meditate.
Indeed, for those familiar with meditation and with the actual process of cessating the fluctuations of the mind, the meaning of Patanjali’s words will be most self-explanatory. Not a lot of thinking will go in this direction, for too much thinking is, in fact, quite often the very issue causing the so-called ‘fluctuations.’ But for those not so familiar with how meditation actually ‘feels,’ we can say that, in essence, what Patanjali is speaking about in such short fashion is the need to learn to take control of our wandering minds. We’ve written about it before. Most of us, sometimes unknowingly, go through life thinking we control our lives but being completely under the control of our very out-of-control minds. Our thoughts take flight all of a sudden without our conscious approval; our minds make decisions we often cannot trace back afterwards; we are overpowered by emotions we know aren't good but can't keep at bay... And all of this takes place in front of our eyes, eyes too busy taking note of the sensorial world to pay proper attention to what’s happening inside.
Patanjali’s words, then, are a simple reminder not to forget that, until we can control what happens on the inside ––until we can break free of the unnatural hold that habitual patterns of thought and feeling have over us–– we will not have experienced real Yoga, we will not have realized the innate state of union inherently characteristic of us. For union comes with completely cessating any, and all, mind fluctuations, as well as with a most pleasurable and calm feeling able to radically change the way we feel and go about doing life
So, as committed yogis and conscious humans, we hope that this post in commemoration of this year’s International Yoga Day celebration inspires you to ask yourself where you’re at with stopping your mind’s fluctuations? To wonder about the actual quality of your meditations? Do you have a regular meditative practice? Do you think you could benefit from having one?
If the answer to these questions is anywhere along the negative end stream, then, what better way to truly commemorate this day (and any day!) than by making it a thing to stick for good with a short daily meditation? You can think of it as part of a new self-care routine for both you and others, one the world could really benefit from considering the overall state of division and fracturedness we are living with these days. In fact, you can think of it as part of a daily ritual where you honor your own essence and the gift of life you've been given, by allowing yourself to sit with what is, to observe it, and learn from it.
There’s a saying in the West that goes something like "it takes one to know one," and though it's usually coined to speak of people, we feel the same is true as well of Yoga: it takes union to experience union. But for union to arise ––for fragmentation to disappear–– we must learn to rest unwaveringly in the unfluctuating stillness of our minds.