Healing Power of Yoga: What is Yoga?

Yoga Sutra 1.2: Definition of Yoga:


Basically, the full system of yoga is defined and summarized in this sutra. What is yoga? Yoga is the ability to direct the mind elusively towards an object and sustain that direction without any distractions. In other words, yoga is a practice to cultivate attention.

Yoga – balance, harmony. There are many translations of the word “yoga”. The Sanskrit root is yuj to join and can also mean to subjugate.

Citta – mind. The word originates from the root “cit” – to think, consider or fix the mind on. Citta consists of three elements: intelligence (buddhi),  ego (ahankara) and thinking faculty (manas). Intelligence (buddhi) is an aspect of thought connected to judgment, discrimination, knowledge and will.  It’s the most important aspect of the mind and a link between mind and consciousness.   Manas are the part of the mind through which it interacts with the external world and takes in sensory impressions and data. Manas are the questioning and doubting agent.

Vrtti – activities, moment, fluctuation. There are five activities of the mind  or vrttis (YS I.5). Namely: direct sensual perception (pramana), incorrect understanding (viparyaya), imagination (vikalpa),  dreamless sleep (nidra) and memory (smrti ).

Nirodhah – master, control, restriction, restraining, disciplining.

Attentive Mind is Peaceful Mind

No doubt, we’ve all been at the mercy of the minds.  Our thoughts can agitate or please us. But they can’t lead us to the goal of Yoga.  We practice movement (asana) to make the body strong and to prepare it for breathing. And our breathing practice prepares us for meditation. Finally, in meditation, we train our mind to focus. In fact, a focused mind leads  towards the state of harmony and clarity.  Ancient text and the  modern science agree on importance of the attention training.

Paul Dolan is a Professor of Behavioral Sciences in the Department of Social Policy at the at the London School of Economics says:

Your happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention. What you attend to drive your behavior and it determines your happiness. Attention is the glue that holds your life together… The scarcity of attentional resources means that you must consider how you can make and facilitate better decisions about what to pay attention to and in what ways.

Wandering Mind is Not Happy Mind

And Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert says that “a wandering mind is not a happy mind.”

We’re happier when our attention is more focused on the here and now! Imagine, staying present and focused?  How many times have you lost the moment to take in the beauty of the fresh air or the smile of your lover while you were thinking about work or checking your phone? By training your mind to cultivate attention, you learn to stay present in your life instead of going through it on auto-pilot. Essentially, this is a goal of yoga.

Thanks for reading!

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