An introduction into the philosophy of yoga
“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.” - Sakyong Mipham
We all come back to our mats for enjoyment and bliss that we experience after an active or soothing yoga practice. But what does yoga in a broader sense actually mean and what was the meaning of yoga in history?
Let’s be curious and take a closer look at the meaning of the word yoga. Yoga means to yoke, or to unite. This unison has a different meaning for different people, from uniting the mind and body, connecting mind and spirit or being in harmony with our internal world and external environment. We could simply say that the reason we practice yoga is to create unity in the body and mind and to be aware that everything is connected.
Patanjali explains in the in the second Sutra of the Yoga Sutras the purpose of yoga practice: “Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah”, which means that yoga is the “stilling of the fluctuations of the mind”. By identifying with the fluctuations of the mind, life can be like a whirlwind, pushing and pulling us in different directions. When we identify with our thoughts and mind states, we might act in some ways that are not helpful for our stability, well-being or enjoyment of life.
When we practice yoga and meditation, we can observe and become aware of these fluctuations, rather than identify with them. When we are aware and present, we are able to see that our thoughts are ever changing and fleeting from moment to moment. Being present and aware on our mat, makes us able to be more present and aware when we step off the mat. And off the mat is where the true yoga begins, so we can be at peace within ourselves and in harmony with the world around us, regardless of where the wind is blowing.