Yoga: The Science of the Mind?

Yoga: The Science of the Mind?

When the word Yoga is mentioned, most of us picture physical exercise that involves stretching, breathing and stress reduction. You may be surprised to understand it really is an ancient spiritual practice that encompasses so much more. The physical aspect is only a part of the overall concept. Yoga is very complex (as it aims for the understanding and complete mastery of the mind) but simple at the same time. It can be boiled down to the word 'Unity'. How unity is accomplished can take on many forms and many years (or a lifetime) to fully grasp and incorporate in one's daily life. 

A couple of years ago I purchased a book to take with me on vacation to learn more about yogic practices (yes, I was thinking I would learn more about the physical side: poses, chakra system and breathwork). It turns out this was not your typical 'beach book'. The information provided was vastly different than expected; quite overwhelming but certainly intriguing. Due to the complexity, I did not finish reading and put it on the shelf to return to it at a later day. One year later I was called to re-open the text and attempt to start incorporating the philosophy into my daily life. 

Here is my initial attempt to offer you a basic understanding of the "science of yoga". 

For thousands of years Yogis have probed the mysteries of the mind and consciousness. There are almost 200 written "sutras" (short threads of meaning) that each individual can expand and internalize upon based on their own experiences. It is estimated these "threads" or "beads" of truth date back to between 5,000 B.C to 300 A.D.! Today's true yoga consists of an integrated approach to the mastering of the mind, taking into consideration all aspects of the individual: physical, emotional, mental, intellectual and social. 

The person who practices yoga sincerely aims to bring about a metamorphosis of their physical, emotional and mental person into a fully illumined and harmonized being. This means the individual no longer has likes or dislikes, pains or pleasures, successes or failures. They are now a sage of permanent peace, joy and selfless dedication to the entire creation. Does this sound like anyone you know? Can you imagine, in today's chaotic world, if even just a fraction of the population started to lean toward even the very basic teachings of this very spiritual practice the world would be a much easier place to live. Maybe we could start on a path to achieve Unity.  

"Truth is One, Paths are Many"

How each person reaches "truth" is different from the next. This philosophy attempts to bring together people of various traditions and faiths to see the oneness in all spiritual endeavors. The message of yoga exemplifies respect for all the different paths, religions and all sincere seekers can realize each other's common spirit and universality of their goals. The science  and ideals of yoga are universal, interfaith & all-encompassing.

Think of a philosophy course, where deep and profound concepts are discussed. Each student can ponder a statement such as "the seer (self) abides in its own nature". Even after discussion from the teacher regarding the statement's meaning, each person takes their own path of understanding that leads back to the the initial statement of truth. 

The restraint of the modifications of the mind is Yoga - according to the author, this one sutra is the foundation or basis for all others. In Sanskrit, it reads Yogas citta vritti nirodhah. The distractions of the mind that take us away from concentration on purity, contentment, non-violence, non-greed, truthfulness, non-stealing and continence. Contemplations and actions that get you closer to God. The entire outside world is based on your thoughts and mental attitude. The entire world is your own projection. So if you have control over thought forms and change them as you want, you are not bound by the outside world. There is nothing wrong with the world. You can make heaven or hell according to your approach. If you control your mind, you have controlled everything. 

Simple, right?!

The sutras and their explanations are written to be individually meaningful to each reader and designed so that the words come back to us during our daily activities and serve as an aid in maintaining peace of mind under all cirumstances. 

Source: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda

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