When it comes to the objective of a yoga practice, many yogis cite Patanjali’s Sutra 1.2: “Yogash citta vritti nirodhah.” Sanskrit scholars offer varying translations of this sutra, but the gist of it is: “Yoga is the cessation (nirodhah) of the fluctuations (citta vritti) of the mind.”
Personally, Bernadette Birney’s (a smart and thoughtful yogi ‘scholar’ from the East Coast) translation speaks to me the most: “B!tch–you are captive of your own tempest of cyclone of twisting thoughts, and emotions, and you don’t even know it! Learn how to calm your sh!t down.”
Twist Yogis explored Sutra 1.2 in last weekend’s Advanced Study workshop, “Life of a Yogi: Dharma, Meditation and Self-Study.” Trainer Megan Carroll nudged us to explore what the sutras meant to us – and to envision our own life’s path, or dharma, through the practice of yoga, meditation and self-reflection.
It was during that exploration that I realized I was holding on (defining myself, really) to something one of my yoga teachers once said. It was in 2001, at the lunch table during a retreat at Breitenbush, when my teacher said to a group of us, “One cannot be a good yoga teacher without a solid meditation practice.”
“That’s it, I’m fucked,” I thought to myself. “I will always suck being a yoga teacher, then.”
It’s funny how we latch on to something someone says and use it to define our worthiness. I’m sure no one else struggles with this (NOT!), but for the past 11 years, I’ve felt like a fraud when it comes to teaching yoga; largely because I internalized an offhanded opinion of someone I respected.
I’ve always struggled with meditation. Largely because I had a hard time “clearing my mind.” Instructions I have experienced on the topic of meditation generally involved some annoying serene looking teacher asking us to “just” wipe away the thoughts in the mind. Usually, these instructions are accompanied by words like: “Simply” or “Easily.”
“Oh, is that all? Simply stop thinking?”
My attempts at meditation usually were accompanied with mind chatter like this: “OK. Here I am meditating-God, this lady’s yoga voice is driving me nuts-Shit, I shouldn’t be thinking-Is that a car alarm?-I suck at meditating-Whoa! Ease up on the self-loathing, sister!-Did I turn off my phone?…..”
….. And so on.
It was time to nirodhah the crap out of those citta vrittis.
In the “Life of a Yogi” study weekend, Megan helped us refine the meditation technique of “Witnessing;” which can be done in 3 easy steps.
Oooh, good. I like steps.
Witnessing: 1) Realize you’re thinking. 2) Label your thoughts. 3) Let them go.
I wrote that down in my notebook.
Megan also asked us to notice when the labeling turned into judging and solving problems.
I wrote that down, too. And put a star next to it.
Then we practiced. It was surprisingly easy. I realized up until that point my previous attempts at meditation had bypassed steps #1 & #2, which frankly was the story of my Type A life: Hurry up and get there!
The technique of witnessing also teaches us that we are in charge of where our mind roams: where it sticks, chatters, and stops to brood.
It is also through these techniques that we begin to get to know ourselves better – and with that comes compassion, acceptance and a better life.
At Twist Yoga, we believe the objective of yoga is to get conscious enough to live a vital life – to unravel your potential. Witnessing your thoughts is a start realizing the effects of thought patterns and long held beliefs that keep us from our true selves — basically to the objective of Sutra 1.2…. And life is much, much too precious to be living any way other than your truest, bestest self.
PS: If you want some help living a vital life, then consider joining us in class, at one of our workshops –or dive deeper into your practice with our Advanced Study Series. Megan returns on May 18-20 to teach “The Power of Prana”.