Modifications of the Mind

One of the most famous text on yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In the text Patanjali explains what yoga is.  In  Sutra 1.2 he says:

“Yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah”

I.K. Taimni translates this as:

“Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind” 1

Your first question might be what are modifications of the mind?  We just don’t speak like that today.  Modifications of the mind is the chatter that at least for me is constantly going on subtly in the background of my mind.  Citta-vrtti is the sanskrit for these modifications and it always strikes me as the word itself almost sounds like chatter.

The modifications and chatter in your mind takes me back to 8 track tapes.  In the 70’s you could buy an album on an 8 track tape to play in your car.  In what now looking back was a rather large player that attached to your car radio.  We didn’t have car stereos back then and certainly couldn’t carry a whole collection of music on one little tiny I-pod. I guess I’m really showing my age.

This sutra reminds me of 8 tracks because in most peoples minds there is usually several streams of thought (tracks) going on at any one moment.  Fewer streams since I started yoga but always more than one.  Stop for a moment, close your eyes and notice the thoughts in your mind.  How many different tracks do you have?

Everyone has constant thoughts going through their head.  Yoga helps you stop the modifications of the mind, stop the chatter, stop the chitta-vrtti’s.  This is why yoga helps you calm and quiet the mind.  This for me is why yoga is so helpful in easing stress and anxiety.  If the thoughts going through your head are of constant worry and fear what will that do to your body?  To your mind?  Yoga’s tools of poses, breathing practices and meditation can be used to help you calm the chatter.

Practicing yoga helped me go from 8 tracks of thoughts to one or two at a time.  So don’t let the chatter exhaust you, don’t let your thoughts turn you into a hamster on a wheel constantly replaying things over and over in your head.  Take a yoga or meditation class and start to still the modifications in your mind.  See how much better you feel!

  1. The Science of Yoga I.K.Taimni p.6
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