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Why and how yoga can be helpful to us: Insights on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

Part II

By Manuel Molina de la Torre

In my previous blog, we had a brief overview on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Ashtanga Yoga and the first sutra of the Yoga Sutras. In this blog, we will have a look at the second sutra.

It is very interesting to note that the Yoga Sutras deal with the human mind a lot; in fact, only a few sutras deal with body/posture (asana).

The second sutra of Patanjali states:

Yogascittavrittinirodhah, which means: yoga is the cessation (nirodhah) of the modifications (vrittis) of the consciousness or mental frame consisting of mind, intellect and ego (citta). My teacher Paul gives an interesting perspective where nirodhah, is more of a channelization of the behavior (or functions) of the citta.

Our minds are constantly influenced by the external sensory/material world. Everything we gather from the outside through our sense organs creates a wave or a movement in our consciousness. Good or bad, right or wrong . . . it doesn’t matter, it will influence and change our mental activity/state and the way we will perceive other similar experiences in the future.

This continuous flow of mental activity (vrittis) shapes our understanding of reality in such a manner that it creates difficulties for our mind, in order to comprehend the real nature of this world and ourselves. In other words, we easily believe that we are what is happening in our minds at any given time.

Yoga philosophy teaches us that there is more than that. There is a deeper reality where our nature and the nature of this world is pure consciousness, Spirit (Purusha). According to Indian tradition, Spirit or pure consciousness is something eternal and immutable that somehow is separated and different (although inherent) to the sensory/material world (Prakriti). It seems that at some point, early in our lives, we get so caught up with our sensory perceptions about the Prakriti world, that we get so identified with it and we partially or totally lose the perception/connection with the Purusha reality. All of this is due to ignorance (avidya), due to our inability to perceive our true divine nature. This condition creates so much suffering in human beings.

. . . Let us take a look to the image below . . .

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What you see in this picture is very common in Southeast Asia — such a pristine image! I will use a metaphor in order to illustrate what I am trying to explain about the second sutra of the great sage Patanjali. In this analogy, human Soul (Purusha) is represented by the lotus flower and the surface of the water represents the human consciousness/mind frame (citta).

When I took this picture there was no wind and the surface of the water was totally still, to the point that it became like a perfect mirror for the flower. Think of a mind in such a state, so calm, steady and able to perceive Spirit in a very clear way. We could say that this mind is actually in the state of yoga or citavrittinirodah. We all, at least once in our lives, are able to catch a glimpse of this silence in our mind, of this awakening. This is the place where so many artists connect with their true self, being able to channel the greatest inspirations!

Now, let’s imagine that there is a rainstorm, which in our analogy represents the upheaval of Prakriti or sensory/material world. Often it would come in the form of some drama! Suddenly, some drops of rain representing our sense organs, acting as a vehicle, would take information from the external world to our consciousness. As the drops of rain hit the water, little waves move across the surface. This would be enough to change the whole image and we wouldn’t be able to see the clear reflection of the flower anymore. Think about these little waves as the constant mental activity or the cittavrittis. Nowadays, due mainly to the stressful way our society is oriented, this is the constant state of our minds. This certainly gives us a very wrong perception of reality.

Although the mind is naturally able to reflect the qualities of the Self (Purusha), we tend to have a distorted idea of it. For instance, cittavrittis act as a veil between our mind and our Soul, preventing us to keep an open connection with an infinite source of bliss inherent to all of us.

Unless we learn how to cultivate stillness in the mind through different techniques (i.e. meditation, art, yoga, pranayama, etc.), this constant mental activity, will make us unable to use our minds as an instrument to search for spiritual truth.

Yoga is designed to withdraw our minds from the external world (pratyahara), so that our minds become more still and less affected by it. Yet, we are encouraged to live in this world and to be 100% present each and every moment! Yoga is for everyone who has a desire to try it; we all can gain many benefits from yoga, such as clarity, peace of mind and inspiration. Most of us are here to thrive in this society, so it doesn’t mean that we have to give up the material world. Nevertheless, we can cultivate ancient techniques that will give us peace of mind. And, hopefully, yoga can help us create a more peaceful and meaningful inner world that reflects in the outside world, just like the image of the lotus flower.

 

-Manuel will be teaching a yoga and creative expression retreat with

Emily Alp at Samahita Retreat in Koh Samui, Thailand.

For more information follow this link

 

-Manuel will be teaching a yoga and holistic healing retreat with

Anouk Prop at Samahita Retreat in Koh Samui,

Thailand in October 21st – 28th 2017. For more information

email: manuel@samahitaretreat.com

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Why and how yoga can be helpful to us? Insight on Patanjali Yoga Sutras Part II
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In my previous blog, we had a brief overview on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Ashtanga Yoga and the first sutra of the Yoga Sutras. In this blog, we will have a look at the second sutra.
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