Sutra 3.9: vyutthana nirodhah samskara abhibhava pradurbhavau nirodhah ksana chitta anvayah nirodhah-parinamah
The state of restraint, nirodha, is when there is disappearance of outgoing [i.e., worldly] samskaras and the appearance of restratining samskaras. These emerge in the mind at the moment of restratint. Translation by Edwin Bryant
What does it take to become a yogi? The most salient advice on this that I ever received came during my first teacher training:
“You don’t have to give anything up, just add yoga!”
What? You mean that starting on the path to becoming a yogi doesn’t require that I abstain from my usual frivolity and delights in order to attain samadhi, “yoga’s ultimate goal” of the experience of viveka, awareness of pure consciousness? You mean I can keep drinking coffee and whiskey? Eating chocolate and cheese? Staying up late watching Miyazaki films (or, more likely, indulgently cheesy tales of self-discovery)?
Woohoo! I can have my cake and eat it, too. Of course, once I’ve had a scrumptious, balanced dinner, I may not want cake… And there we enter into the rest of the story.
The practices of yoga change the practitioner. As they do, the delights you once thought impossible to give up, if no longer serving you, fall away of their own accord, almost as if without notice.
By establishing a habit of getting on my yoga mat first thing in the morning, my old habit of using my daily shower to wake up my senses is no longer necessary (though showering to get clean still is!).
After establishing a habit of daily asana + meditation practice, I grew more sensitive to hours sluggishly spent on the couch watching movies. I still love movies, I still love my couch, but lounging through more than one at a time doesn’t feel so great anymore.
As I practice choosing tapas, determination and perseverance in the face of “but I don’ wanna!” syndrome, fear and doubt are quieter voices in my head.
With a steady meditation practice, I am more aware of what chaos feels like and what calm feels like.
As I practice choosing calm, chaos grows less appealing.
By taking on yoga, yoga has changed me –through a painless process! I won’t say I have not reacted to my changes, but I don’t recall resisting the changes –in large part because where I wasn’t ready for change, it didn’t come up. The practice was still there, nudging useful habits into my brain and hindering habits out.
Training your mind to set up the conditions for samadhi, an experience of pure consciousness, works in just the same way. As a practitioner chooses calm in the mind, the “one-pointed focus muscle” in her brain will get stronger, and eventually (no time table is available on this, sorry!) the ability to focus on one thing instead of many things will be steady enough to create the condition for a long sit in samadhi.
There is room for only so much in our minds and our lives.
The practices you choose cultivate the habits you build and shape the experience you enjoy.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.