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In keeping with our theme from last week, this week we further explore yoga’s ability to still our mind. Yet, this week we remember that silence is not to be forced or pushed. Stillness is our primordial nature, it is something into which yoga helps us expand, to which yoga helps us return.

And why silence? As the old adage goes, there is strength in silence. In today’s world, power and expression tend to rule. We are trapped within excessive  fifth chakras (and third chakras) in politics and in popular media. Our culture often speaks to be heard, to create controversy, to get reactions. However, excessive speech is often compensation for deficient love- both from others and from self- thus, deficient heart chakras. Just bring to mind the picture of a childhood bully– all talk, all words, to compensate for the turmoil within. To become comfortable with silence- both within ourselves and in interactions with others- is to be comfortable with love, with peace, with compassion. It is to be in tune with the speech of the heart.

“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us to see their own images and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even a fiercer life because of our silence.” ~ William Butler Yeats

If we can sit with ourselves in silence and learn to listen to our hearts, we are more apt to sit with others in silence from time to time and just BE together. Many of us have experienced a relationship (close or random) at some point in which we were able to simply BE together without many words, and we could understand the other. As Catherine Ingram says in her Yoga Journal article, “In awakened awareness we don’t need to pretend that we are only a conglomeration of stories, an aggregate of accomplishments, or a survivor of miseries. We are willing to gaze into the eyes of another person without fear or desire—without stories about who I am or who she is—and sense only the light of existence shining in a particular pair of eyes.” We can “twinkle” with another person for a short while. This is not to say that language is wrong– we must all agree that language is necessary and useful. However, we also must honour the fact that silence is equally necessary and useful. Our yoga practice helps us to settle into the silence within our hearts so that we can more easily go out and appreciate the silence in others.


What better way to understand our practice of yoga than to go back thousands of years and understand it from the very beginning? This is what part of deepening our practice is: studentship. We come to a point when we understand the basic structures of poses, we (somewhat) recognize the names of poses (something-asana?), and we are beginning to see the benefits of yoga and meditation for our minds and souls. At this point, questions start to arise, naturally. Questions about the intricacies of poses. Questions about the subtle body. Questions about the nature of meditation. And finally, questions about the history of yoga.

Dont worry, I won’t be going into a long history lesson this week. We will be reading 2 simple phrases (yes, just two) from the “Yoga Bible”– the first written document about yoga and all it’s glorious details: the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. And trust me, the answer to many of our questions can lie right here, in the first two phrases (or sutras) of this book. Especially this one: Why do we practice yoga?

atha yoganusasanam

yogah cittavrtti nirodhah

How these two small verses are translated can take up books in itself. However, the consensus lies in something like: “Now we begin to explore the sacred art of yoga with it’s guidelines and instructions .” (That’s number 1) “Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.” (Number 2) On first glance, these two verses seems only introductory, simple; yet, it is looking at them in context that brings their importance to light.

First of all, these two loaded verses were written over 2000 years ago. Yet, as we think of how relevant these are today, we understand the beauty of this writing. When we start to question, “Where am I headed with yoga? Am I on the right path?” the second verse can bring simple answers. Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind. Yoga’s purpose is to still this ever-chattering mind we have. Nowhere does it say that yoga is looking great (although it may be one of many benefits). It does not say that attaining yoga occurs when your every limb can bend in a different direction simultaneously. Yoga is not attaining the most difficult physical pose. Stillness will be yoga. (Yoga also meaning this integration between all layers of Self that we seek.) The practice of yoga will bring us yoga. Yoga is a means and an end.

What I find so beautiful is that something that seers and yogis realized thousands of years ago applies more than ever to our society. We practice yoga to clam these fluctuations in the mind, the wavering between concentration on mind, on self, on ego, on intelligence. What do these fluctuations cause? In my opinion, the “un-stillness” within in which we so often find ourselves causes many diseases and psychological unrest. Why does our society suffer so much from anxiety, depression, image disorders, and emotional lability? In addition, (although my thoughts on this may be slightly controversial) perhaps the root of conditions such as cancer, autoimmune disease, and neurological illness is psychological unrest, suppression of emotions, and unresolved pasts. We are ungrounded, and yoga is here to help us bring back some grounding (especially in the mind). I think we can all attest to this: by focusing for an hour on our body’s movement, on opening up channels of energy, on consciously breathing, we find a sort of peace of mind that is pretty difficult to get otherwise. And this is the first step. If we can stop our mind chatter for just moments at a time, simply by bringing more awareness to the integration of every layer of our body, we can train ourselves to do this for longer periods of time, in more situations. If a minute fraction of that awareness goes into your everyday life, just imagine how in tune you can become. Imagine how peaceful life might be. That peace is health. That peace is yoga.

“Yoga is the teacher of yoga; yoga is to be understood through yoga. So live in yoga to realize yoga; comprehend yoga through yoga; he who is free from distractions enjoys yoga through yoga.” ~ Sri Vyasa

Just me…

2010 Journey

September 2010
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