I.2 Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah – Yoga is to still the fluctuations of the mind
Understanding this sutra requires a recognition of what makes the mind fluctuate. We can all relate to the feeling of being agitated and unfocused, yes? This is part of what is meant by fluctuation of the mind and we sense how it scatters our energy and decreases effectiveness. Certainly this sutra is suggesting yoga as a practice that quiets an agitated mind to bring ease, clarity, and allow calm intelligent decision making. Yoga is a powerful tool for quieting the mind, and yet there is so much more to be extracted from this pithy yoga stura.
There is another natural flux of the mind that is an organic part of our growth process. It goes like this: Whenever we have a new idea for ourselves, our mind “splits” and part is focused on the current self while the other part is focused on the future self. If the heart remains creative and hopeful, the mind will work out the steps that move us into the future self and close the gap between current self and future self. We create this union and we expand. Think about you five years ago and you now. Can you sense all the little fluxes that were created then closed in order to make the big 5-year change in you? And from this new perspective, you will have many more new ideas and new fluxes will be created then closed; it is a never ending pulsation. Yoga is the process of closing each gap and allowing ourselves to expand.
Desire is good! The contrasting environment of our earthly experience will always give rise to new desires. This is the most natural thing; it is the fuel of life; it is the call to action that moves love into new expressions. This sutra is asking us to ride to waves of this expansion and allow the gaps (fluctuations) to close easily and move us forward sweetly. This sutra is asking us to release resistance. Often we resist desires because we are afraid they will not manifest and the pain of not having what our heart wants is too much so we try to repress a desire (a fluctuation).
But even a desire for no desire is a desire! You cannot get away from desire; love must flow onward. And its growth pattern is this pulse of opening a gap (clear desire), and closing the gap (allowing the desire to manifest). As soon as we have grown into a new self, ideas for an even newer self arise. Then the mind splits again and we “close the gap” and grow, then split and close and split and close ad infinitum.
These mind fluctuations are normal, natural, and good. Without them we would not evolve. So an even more essential message from this sutra is this: when your mind is split between where you are and where you want to be, use yoga to move towards your vision. Use yoga to close the gap or unify the flux and become more. Now this brings us back to the more simple message of this sutra… a doubtful mind is what holds us in flux.
Have you ever wanted something very much but doubted it would come to you? Maybe you got super cynical about it so you gave up and forgot about it for a while. Then a few months later, there it is and you say to yourself, “oh yes, I remember saying I wanted this.” These experiences are classic examples of how desire will take us into growth when we get out of the way. Often our inner dialogue is a bit bipolar: “I want a million dollars, but people like me don’t get that kind of money.” or “I want to fall in love with a wonderful person, but all the good ones are taken.” or “I want to be strong and beautiful, but I don’t have time to work out and eat right.” Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah is suggesting we get our big BUTs out of the way! In other words, learn to spend more time savoring the desire and less time doubting its possibilty. Of course this is easier said than done. This is why the yoga practice offers us a variety of methods to distract ourselves from doubt and focus on positive movement, mantra, and breathing. Yoga is both the method for getting out of our own way and the experience of union that comes when we do.
Are you sensing the power of this sutra? Can you feel how to use it in your life? You might begin your asana practice by setting a clear intention recognizing the natural gap between where you are and where you want to be and dedicating the practice to closing the gap with ease. Then, trusting the natural flow to take you there, you move with steady breath and trust that the natural flow will close the gap in a way that serves your highest and makes an offering to those around you.
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Often we think of joy as success and sorrow as failure. We easily celebrate peaks and we resist and complain about valleys. Of course this is natural. Joy is our nature, we live for the peaks and the sweet downhill slide that comes when we are “on top of the world”. But often we forget that peaks and valleys come as a package deal. We cannot have one without the other. And, the trials of valleys and upward climbs out of them are part of what make the peaks so darn satisfying. What we do have a choice in is our attitude as we travel the peaks and valleys of our lives. On the peaks we sometimes forget to maintain our blessings with virtue, respect, and appreciation. Often we worry, complain and blame while in the valleys wasting energy and digging the valley even deeper. If we cultivate an attitude of innocence and willingness to “climb”, the valleys loose their power to darken us. We begin to see them as opportunities for growth and education.
Practicing this, we eventually develop a yogi “bring it on!” attitude and learn to enjoy the valleys as much as the peaks. We allow them to be interesting and strengthening rather than diminishing. We realize they are there to make the next peak sweeter. Eventually we realize that to get to a new peak, we must descend into a valley to do so. Just as the dark cold of winter is necessary to bring a new spring bloom, peaks and valleys are a package deal. It would be wise to learn to respect and make the best of both.
Think of it this way; Part of the satisfaction of surfing comes from paddling out against on-coming waves and positioning with precision in order to enjoy a sweeter ride. And it is the paddle out that brings strength and knowledge of the elements and these add to the richness of the ride. It is a package deal. If the surfer were getting plopped onto the wave by some machine the satisfaction of the ride would eventually diminish. Of course there is a growing period for new surfers who are building the strength and knowledge to paddle safely and effectively but with the right attitude and the nectar of the rides as motivation, even this “climbing” experience can be rich.
The point is this: these “opposites” are not a linear spectrum. There are circular, cyclical and connected. Eventually darkness gives way to clarity which brings new light. Then light accumulates shading and becomes dark again. Peaks and valleys are the waves of life, in 3D waves become spirals, energy cycles back to its origin point but on a new level each round. You are the wave rider and your attitude and skill determine to steadiness and sweetness of the ride. Every problem comes prepackaged with a solution. They are simultaneously present. Which one are YOU focused on? Even in the depths of a valley, we can begin to look up and consider the first step to climb out. It begins with an attitude. You are free to shift your attitude… it is the flash point of your power to change your life. THIS is the yoga philosophy. Kahlil Gibran states it eloquently in his comments on Joy and Sorrow…
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
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The yoga sutras are poetic texts of ancient wisdom. But their power lays dormant until we understand them well enough to apply them in a way that clearly enhances our lives and our communities. A good yoga teacher is a bridge builder; someone who can create revelation in students by relating new wisdom to what students already know and understand. I work weekly with a group of yoga teachers who are advancing their training by studying the sutras together. We are enjoying chewing on these aphorisms (bits of timeless wisdom) and figuring new ways to build bridges of understanding for our selves and our students. This week we are looking at Sutra 11 from chapter 2: The Sadhana Pada – the path of soul growth
The sutra says: The Hindrances (kleshas) are to be Removed by Meditation
Basically Patanjali is saying, “don’t waste time trying to battle hindrances with action or mental control because it is not going to work. They must be ‘pulled out by the roots’, which means getting down to the energetic source and this requires going deeper than action and thought; this requires meditation”.
Remember the hindrances are:
1. Avidya – ignorance of our vibrational nature (and therefore our creative power)
2. Asmita – thinking we are acting alone and effecting only ourselves
3. Raga – desperate wanting
4. Dvesa – disgust or repulsion
5. Abynavesha – fear of things falling apart
Now these hindrances arise with each new level we move ourselves towards. Read that again: These hindrances arise again and again each time we grow further into our fullness. In other words, each time we have a new set of desires, these hindrances must be dissolved in order to align vibrationally with the desires and allow them in. “If you want it, you can have it, when you get out of the way…”
Think about something you are living now that long ago felt out of reach. Get it clear in your mind. Now, go back to how it felt before you had it and review the hindrances. Can you see how Adviya was present for you as you held the not-yet-manifested-desire? This would be the a feeling of overwhelm at what is involved in making the dream come true. Perhaps a feeling that it is impossible. Can you sense how Asmita was present when you held that not-yet-manifested desire? This would be the feeling of having to act alone and compete against others in order to get what you want. Can you sense how there was some desperate wanting? Do you remember some repulsion (perhaps at the thought of failure or self-judgement about your ability to succeed)? And can you recall Abynavesha; the fear that things would “die” or fall apart completely in your attempt to move forward?
And now here you are living that thing that felt so out of reach back then. Whether or not you realized it, you breathed through the kleshas (hindrances), became a vibrational match to them and expanded! And you did it with some form of meditation. Remember that meditation is not just sitting on your butt and breathing in silence. It can anything that lines you up with source (e.g. makes you feel free and hopeful). It could be simple going about your life with a song in your heart and complete trust in divine order…yes, that is meditation.
Now, presently in your life, there are a new set of kleshas between you and where you want to go next. Can you sense them? Write a short list of desires present in your life now. When you read the list, notice where your mind goes and what your emotional state is. Can you sense the kleshas in these reactions?
Now here’s the thing to really get: you do not have to systematically focus on these kleshas and slash at them in order to dissolve them. In fact that would more likely strengthen them. Sometimes the best “meditation” is to let go of thinking about how to get your goals without letting go of wanting them. Something like, “yes I want all that, but today I am going to the beach with my dog to breathe and throw the frisbee.” That is part of the meditation that dissolves hindrances. Here’s the paradox… it is when we “step away from trying to make things happen” that we are inspired and guided to the most effective and fun ways to make them happen.
So why even care about the hinderances if happy distraction is the meditation that dissolves them? Well, when we are aware of them and can feel them hovering and consciously set intention to dissolve them… oh the meditation is much more powerful and manifestation quicken!
Wisdom Flow Yoga offers one of the most comprehensive and fun teacher trainings on the planet. We begin with a clear vision of the underlying philosophy – that every living being arises from and is rooted in divine energy, that we come to earth to joyfully expand and refine the expressions of Source Energy (aka Love), and by deepening our knowledge of body and mind we can focus our energy towards this fruitful joyful expansion. From this core philosophy we unfold the methodology of asana, pranayama, meditation, and more. Each day includes time for every student to take the “seat of the teacher” and practice using the voice of loving leadership. With this daily practice of voicing the material covered, teaching skills develop quickly. Our playful methods for remembering material help too. We sing and dance and use word association to quickly assimilate material in an atmosphere of relaxed playfulness.
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Advance your Certification on Maui with Wisdom Flow Yoga School. Teaching and living Yoga is a constantly evolving path and requires a very practical application of the philosophy into our own lives. The best teachers are ones willing to seek further education and who enjoy chewing on leading edge concepts and teaching methods to keep their offering fresh, fun and effective. Wisdom Flow Yoga School welcomes you to our advanced training programs that will lead teachers currently certified at the 200-hour level to their 500-hour certification. Read more… Our first module is a live 9-day training session on Maui – One week with a 2nd weekend added. We choose this time frame to support working teachers who want to minimize their time away from work and/or family. This first module covers 120 hours of your 300-hour requirement for 500-hour certification. The remaining 180 hours will be completed remotely through weekly skype meeting with your teachers and classmates, projects, assignments, and streaming classes conducted through MauiOnlineYoga.com (our interactive online yoga website). This makes the advanced training affordable and easy to integrate into your life. It also establishes a continuing community connection with your fellow students and the Wisdom Flow Yoga School. Take a Look at our Curriculum. Our mission is to support your never-ending expansion as a healer and uplifter. Feel free to email Wisdom Flow Yoga with any questions. Download Registration From and Reserve your Spot.
JENNIFER LYNN is the founder of Wisdom Flow Yoga, a Vinyasa Flow style that blends the wisdom of optimal joint alignment and core strength with the playful flow of dance-like transitions. She has been teaching on Maui for ten years and offering Wisdom Flow Yoga Teacher Trainings since 2008. She is originally from that San Francisco Bay area. She received a B.A. in Mathematics and B.S. in Computer Science from San Jose State University. She has trained in TriYoga, Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga and Anusara Yoga. She has been teaching for 17 year, has established her own style and YA Certified Yoga Training School. Wisdom Flow Yoga is based on the heart-centered philosophy of Shiva/Shakti Tantra; Tantra means to weave expansion and Shiva/Shakti implies the expansion is into and between the seen and unseen. email Jennifer