What is Yoga?

Have you ever wondered where yoga came from? Or perhaps how it can help in your day to day life? We’re beginning a series to help unpack the Yoga Sutras in order to find out.

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Most scholars attribute yoga’s arrival in the West to Swami Vivekananda’s speech in front of the World Parliament at Chicago’s World Fair in 1893. He was the most celebrated speaker at the summit and received a standing ovation for his passionate dialog about the common truths and wisdom that people share. Wisdom that largely stems from the Yoga Sutras, as well as earlier yogic texts. 

There are 196 Yoga Sutras, or threads of yoga.

The 2nd sutra states: Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.

Yogic philosophy holds that the untrained mind is generally unhappy with the present moment. This leads us to continually seek after something we don’t have (a new car, new job, new life, more ice cream) or try to push away something we aren’t comfortable with (a meeting at work, some deadline, bank account balance, today’s weather). 

By stilling the mind, and moving beyond those constant fluctuations, we reach a state described in the 3rd yoga sutra.

(having stilled the mind with yoga)… one abides peacefully in oneself, resting in their own true nature.

When the mind is clear, and we get off of the wheel of striving and avoiding we can reconnect with who we actually are underneath all of the layers.

The 4th sutra says: otherwise (or without yoga) One mistakes themselves to be the fluctuations on the mind.

In other words, our default way of being without practice, is to not only be trapped in the wheel of striving and avoiding, but to also confuse those pattens to be our actual identity. That belief and those patterns will only leave us constantly seeking something else. 

Author Robin Sharma wrote, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”

When we train the  mind through practices like yoga, it becomes be a powerful tool for creation, growth, and discovery. When the mind is in control, we mistakenly think that the sum of who we are is the voice in our head. We are so much more than that, and yoga is also much more than a series of poses. The Yoga Sutras lay out an entire path of mindfulness, breathing practices, meditation, and living in connection.

The first four sutras describe the mind with yoga and the mind without yoga, and go on to say that if your mind is peaceful and easy that is wonderful, if not, here are 192 more sutras to help you along the way.

Which leads us to the first yoga sutra: Now begins the study of yoga

We’ll continue to explore the sutras in an accessible way week-by-week, and of course, in our classes at JoyWheel Yoga & Wellness



Adam Schifferli