Have you ever heard of yoga being described as a body-mind practice, or that it links the body and mind together?
From my own personal study and practice, I am having doubts about this description.
Mind is part of the body, and the body also makes up the mind so they are indeed interlinked.
It helps to discriminate, concentrate, focus to whatever is the job at hand and when it is not distracted it is a very powerful tool. But, that is just it, it’s a tool.
When I am fully immersed in something, it feels like I am out of my mind.
I often find these moments floating in the ocean or in a good asana flow practice. When I am more into my body, I get a little vacation from my head, from its constant commentary and chatter. The yogis described this chatter as vrittis (waves), the second yoga sutra defines yoga as the cessation of the thought waves of the mind.
I have been working very hard to better understand my mind to body relationship through the work with Inner Journey, and have had glimpses where I can really see how the mind spins things out of control.
For instance, I may have an existing underlying sensation in my body that I would describe say as knots or tightness in my belly (anxiety). On their own, they are not pleasant, but are relatively harmless, and I can certainly breath through them, watch them shift, move, intensify and then eventually dissipate.
Then, the mind steps in, it creates a back story, the fear of the “but what-ifs” – which exacerbates those otherwise innocuous sensations and gives them super-powers, gets me wound up where I am all reaction and raw emotion, and no longer in control.
Some would probably describe this state as not being in the right mind (clear, logical), and I would partly agree.
Let’s go back to the sutras, the third sutra states “Then the seer abides in his own true nature” which Sri Swami Satchidanada describes as being neither body nor mind. This is the BIG I – the Big Self, the Big Kahuna and largely indescribable. Many attempts have been made but largely miss the point as this is something that can only really be experienced. Our essence, our true nature is eternal, unwavering, infinite beings of energy, of light, of dark and we are all one and the same, pure awareness, consciousness.
Don’t you just love a paradox?!
To calm and remove these vrittis, Patanjali prescribes a variety of different tools and techniques, and all of which use to some degree the body and the mind. It is only in this body, scripture says, that an enlightened state can be reached.
So know where are we – oh yes, yoga is a linking of body and mind. To this I say most unanimously Yes and No.
I prefer to think of it as – Breath and Body are in command and my Mind is third in command.
Think Captain Picard, Number Two (Commander Riker) and Lt. Commander Data (mind).
Besides, if I were to really let the mind run the show, out would come a long list of grocery items, what I want to eat/drink after class, commentary, narration, judgements, distractions – well you get the idea.
The mind makes a lousy master, but a wonderful servant. – Yogi Bhajan