September is National Yoga Month, so what better time to discuss the true purpose of yoga? Isn’t the asana, the poses, the practice of yoga you might ask? Yes. But not the purpose. The asana are a place to practice yoga. The true purpose of yoga is to still the mind.
The restraint of the modifications of mind-stuff is Yoga.
Yoga Sutras 1:2
It is stated that if a student masters this one sutra, then all the others are unnecessary. As all the remaining sutras work to explain just this one.
Nothing in the world can bother us as much as our own mind, our own thoughts, racing here and there, judging this and that. Categorizing everything into good/bad, like/dislike, yes/no. Even when it seems that others are bothering us, their actions, their words, it is in fact our own mind. It is the thought that we have that their actions are not okay – we decided we did not like it and that it was bad. Says who? What is good for you may be bad for me and vice versa. Who’s to say?
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
We do not see things as they ARE but instead how WE are. No-thing is categorized as good or bad, we decide that. Your mind is powerful! And you are FREE to change your mind, to change your path, to FREE yourself from the prison of your own false thoughts. Happiness depends only on your own mind. To learn to look at things with upeksha – equanimity. Non-attachment. No preference toward one thing or another, and no way or another. Just simply that they are.
Have you ever been in an argument with your partner, spouse, roommate, friend? If I asked you what the cause was, most likely you would say that it was because they were not doing something “right”. When in actuality, wasn’t it that they were not meeting your expectations? That they did not do what they were “supposed to” do in your eyes. That you expected them to act a certain way or do a certain thing, and they did not. Who’s to say what is right and what is wrong? More importantly, why does it matter?
The average person has over 50,000 thoughts a day. And we need to learn to manage those thoughts. The basic Law of Attraction states that where attention goes, energy flows. What you think you become. So, if you fill your mind with negative thoughts, you will produce a negative life. On the contrary, if you fill your mind with positive thoughts, you will attract a positive life. You are confined only by the walls you build yourself. If you maintain expectations that things need to be a certain way, you will most always be disappointed. You have zero control over the past, the future, or over what someone else does or did.
Stop worrying about that which you cannot control.
And this is where Yoga steps in. As you practice asana and you are holding a posture for what seems like an eternity, and you are uncomfortable, you are bored, and you would rather be doing anything else, you are FREE. Your mind is right here, right now. Entirely focused on what you are doing. Now. All other thoughts, worries, and expectations float away. You are completely engaged. Immersed. And so the mind is FREE.
Little by little we expand our capacity for this. The longer we hold the pose, the more breaths we take in meditation, stillness arises. We learn to be okay with the discomfort, the boredom, whatever arises. And we learn to expand on that. Snipets of stillness are easy: listening to your favorite song, eating your favorite dessert, soaking in the hot tub. We are searching for unconditional stillness, stillness regardless of our circumstances, regardless of what category we put this situation into. We cannot change the situation, but we can change what we think about it. How we deal with it. What "category" we put it into. Or not.
Our power of choice resides with the Sacral Chakra. To choose joy and positivity. To let go of negativity. To let go of the thoughts, the expectations, of right/wrong, good/bad, etc and to just BE. To feel things as they are. Without involving the mind. Allowing the mind to be still.
To BE: Free.
“You have to let it all go. Fear, doubt, disbelief, free your mind.” Morpheus