Words: Yogi Maharaj Dr. Malik
In the previous issues of YOGA Magazine, I explored briefly Chapter 1 (‘Types of Yoga’) and Chapter 2 (‘The Practice of Yoga’), from an ancient book written by sage Patanjali, namely the ‘Yoga Sutras’. After that, we moved on to Chapter 3 (‘The Powers of Yoga’).
This ancient book on yoga explains the meaning of yoga. The focus of this book is on the mind. If the mind is peaceful – then it can attain the highest stages of enlightenment (Samadhi). If the mind is not controlled then it will be afflicted with thoughts that are not peaceful, which in turn will create problems in your day-to-day life.
Even if your goal is not enlightenment or you believe you can’t achieve this state (Samadhi), this should not put you off studying, reflecting, and meditating on the
sutras because in time, as you practice and still the mind, it will become calmer.
If you are new to ‘Yoga Sutras’, just know the book comprises short poetic sentences. Each sutra is a sentence long, maybe even 2 or 3 brief sentences. They are designed to be studied, contemplated upon and have their meanings searched for. There are many commentaries written about the Sutras, each with its own style and approach. The Sutras are designed to trigger the mind to think about the hidden meanings of yoga practice as well as the overt meanings.
The Yoga Sutras is not a static text, it is a practical guide to help you tame your mind and to control the ‘thoughts’ that rise in it – so that you can move towards the state of enlightenment or super-consciousness.
There is no definitive answer to what the meaning of the Sutras is, as they have over the decades been interpreted according to tradition, meaning, philosophy, psychology, and other methodologies. In the previous issue of YOGA Magazine, I explored Sutra 8 of Chapter 3.
This month I provide a brief snapshot of Sutra 9, of Chapter 3. Stopping the modifications of thoughts and their shadows/imprints results in total control – (9) In the previous sutra, Patanjali mentioned the state of samadhi (as part of the samyama mind awareness state). This is only one distinct type of samadhi. There is also the super state of samadhi. There are different ‘kinds’ or ‘types’ of this enlightened stage in the practitioner’s journey. The highest form of samadhi, is a superpower state.
STOPPING THE MODIFICATIONS OF THOUGHTS AND THEIR SHADOWS/IMPRINTS RESULTS IN TOTAL CONTROL
Once attained, the practitioner is then bestowed with extraordinary abilities. Anything and everything seems possible when this arises. The body becomes formless so that the ‘essence’ is understood.
As seen in the previous issue, this appreciation of formlessness allows access almost like ‘keys’ to the secret chambers of the mind – to access a new level of awareness.
In sutra 9 Patanjali describes how the process of thoughts can create changes in the mind and its processes. When such thoughts are limited, held back, destroyed, or restricted, the mind is adversely affected.
Thoughts can significantly impact the mind and its processes. In earlier chapters of this ancient book Patanjali is telling us clearly that ‘obstacles’ in the mind are created by our thoughts. This leads to emotional disturbances. These states do not just live in the mind and cause confusion. They also seep into the body. Mind-body has a symbiotic relationship. The influence of the mind on the body is profound and lasting. The body mirrors the
states of the mind. The two co-exist and become one. If your mind is constantly occupied by lethargic feelings then your body may show signs in posture or aches and pains. A depressed mind can be felt in the body. Even the skin can show underlying mental states. The toxicity of any emotion can result in disease and even death. Major organs of the body such as the heart, kidneys, and liver can all be affected by the way you think and feel. Such states are also mirrored in the breath.
Anxiety, depression, fear, and panic are easily transformed into and manifest in the way you breathe. If you are happy, at ease, and peaceful then the breath reflects this. The inhalations and exhalations are at a steady pace and not out of control and abnormal.
A calm mind will reflect itself in the body and the mind. If you are feeling anxious for any number of reasons there is nothing to be ashamed of. Some stress is definitely good for us. But if left unchecked and allowed to fester in the mind for a considerable amount of time, or even if exposed to stressful situations, the result can be
toxic overload. This toxicity can reduce your life considerably as well as bring on premature ageing. Thousands of years ago, Patanjali was already writing about the mind-body connection. Obstacles that distract will keep your mind in perpetual anguish, and emotional turmoil – in a ‘war’ with yourself. They will keep you blinded from the ‘truth’ of your reality, of who you really are, of your natural state of being – your birth-right.
If the mind is tired, it is out of ‘steam’ like a train that zooms at high speed and soon slows when there is little fuel. You may be ‘alive’ and participating in the world but your mind is suffering fatigue. Therefore, it cannot perform to its optimum best. It does not have the fuel to keep it working to its best. The small amount of fuel left is used merely to keep the mind engaging with the obstacles and keeping them ‘alive’. A distracted mind crammed to its brim with obstacles creates all sorts of ills and misfortune on the person who harbours them. It has such a momentous impact that it will also directly affect the physical body.