What is the Promise of Yoga – What is Yoga?
Video Transcript: What is the promise of yoga?
One of my friends calls the Yoga sutra “the Book of Promises”. A lot of books such as the Yoga Sutra give you a practice and then there’s a promise that follows that practice.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (manual on hatha yoga) there are practices that say:”If you do XYZ, this is going to happen to you.”
Usually the promise is always along the same lines:” the yogi is then liberated.”
In the Yoga Sutras the promise is given right a the very beginning.
The very first Sutra says “Yoga is now” or “now is the instruction of yoga.”
It doesn’t say, you know, “last year was yoga.”
When you experience the now, the mind becomes like a glass lake.
The second Sutra gives more of an explanation of what yoga is. It says that “yoga is when the mind stops.”
The third sutra tells you what happens when the mind isn’t stopping. What happens is that you start to identify with all the stuff that is in your mind, in other words with your thoughts.
I like to call that string of thoughts “the committee”; thoughts such as “You’re not good enough, you don’t have enough muscles, you don’t have enough hair, you’re not enough, you’re eating too much.”
It’s just all of these things going on in our minds.
When our mind isn’t like a glass lake and you look at the waves, and you start to identify with those waves such as I’m too fat, I’m too thin, I’m not beautiful, I’m too beautiful, I’m getting old and identifying with those thoughts.
But the promise comes in the 4th sutra, and it’s such a profound Sutra.
Patanjali says that “When the minds stop, you rest in your own home, you rest within your sanctuary no matter how much turbulence, how much chaos is going on around you, no matter how much you can hear the garbage truck in the background, or the drill in the street, or the lawnmower outside, or the monkey howling.”
Within all of us there is a place, there is a city, there is your essence that is always at rest.
And that is the teaching of the fourth Sutra, that when we experience yoga, we experience that place that is always at rest.
The word that Patanjali uses for the self is Purusha pu means self, and rupa means essence.
Purusha is an interesting word , it often gets translated as the self, as the soul, as the witness, the changeless part of ourselves, but the literal definition is :”city that is always at rest.”
So that when you experience yoga you go back to dwelling within your own essence.
That is for me the true power of yoga.
No matter how many handstands I can do or no matter how deep my backbends can get but it’s rather the opportunity to go morning walks on the beach, driving to work, dealing with the chaos of being at work.
It really comes down to how much are we connected to that city that is always at rest.
As yogis we have the opportunity to bring that out into the world.
Go to that place, that city inside yourself and then bring it back out.
That’s the invitation.