What is Yoga?
Yoga as per Patanjali’s yoga sutra (योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः) is “yoga chitta vritti nirodha“ Meaning: calm down the flow of thoughts with the help of yoga practices is yoga.
Chitta = thoughts
Vritti = mental whirlpool; thought-wave; a ripple in the chitta; A vritti alters perception as waves on the surface of a pond distort our view of the bottom.
Nirodha = To find tranquility
Chitta is like a river in which thought-waves (vrittis) flow as waves on the surface of pond or river. To control the development of thoughts in chitta is Yoga.
Abhyasa (Practice) and Vairagya (Detachment or renunciation) are the two tools used combining together to achieve the state of yoga [Ref: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra].
Tamo Guna is removed by Abhyasa (Practice) and Rajo Guna is removed by Vairagya ( Detachment or Renunciation).
The mind has three Gunas, viz., Sattva Guna (goodness, bliss, light), Rajo Guna (passion, motion), and Tamo Guna (inertia, darkness).
Sattva Guna is purity of heart, illumination, light etc., will confer liberation on you. Rajo Guna will make a man restless. Rajo Guna mind always wants new sensations and variety. Tamo Guna gives laziness (Alasya), carelessness (Pramada), and drowsiness (Tandri).
Ashtanga yoga, which literally means “eight-limbed yoga” [Ref: Patanjali Yoga Sutra] contains five Bahiranga (external) yoga practices and three Antaranga (internal) yoga practices.
First five are Bahiranga yoga practices and six to eight are Antaranga yoga practices:
- The Yama: these are five – satya (truthfulness), ahimsa (non-violence), asteya (not stealing), aparigraha (non-possessiveness), and brahmacharya (self denial).
- The Niyama: these are five – Shaucha (purity of body and mind), santosha (contentment), tapas (self discipline), svadhyaya (God related study), and ishvara pranidhana (devotion to a higher source).
- The Asanas to strengthen and discipline the body and the mind.
- Pranayama or breathing exercises to rejuvenate the body and the mind.
- Pratyahara is the transcending or withdrawal of the senses.
- Dharana (concentration) involves concentrating on a single focus, which can be an image, one of the chakras, a silent bija mantra or an object.
- Dhyana (Meditation) is a state of mind in which yogi is aware without producing thoughts.
- Samadhi (unity) is a state in which yogi experiences no separation between the individual and universal Consciousness (a state of absolute bliss).
Abhayasa is more helpful in first five Bahiranga yoga practices, and Vairagya is helpful in last three (six to eight) Antaranga yoga practices.
असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते || भगवद गीता 6/35||
asanśhayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durnigrahaṁ chalam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa cha gṛihyate || Bhagvad Geeta 6/35||
Meaning of this shloka: Lord Krishna said to Arjuna, what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain. But by practice and detachment, it can be controlled.