There is something about yoga that keeps people coming back to the practice. Regardless of what brings them into class, they keep coming back because of the effects that a yoga practice can have on the practitioner. A lot of practitioners report feelings of peace, ease after class, and calming of mental fluctuations. Some also report feeling energized, uplifted, and refreshed. Depending on the type of yoga and the practitioner, the effect of each practice will differ but will carry one underlying theme: ease of suffering. So, what is it about Yoga that is so special?
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a foundational text in the spiritual practice of yoga that is not only used in the best online yoga teacher training, but in nearly every 200-hour yoga teacher training. Just like Yoga itself, this text is linked back to India and is written in the native language of yoga, Sanskrit. Because of its importance, it is often required reading in yoga teacher training both online and in person. The Yoga Sutras are a guidebook for yoga practitioners to find samadhi, or true union with everything. They lay out a straightforward path towards this blissful state utilizing the tools that many of us know today. One of the first sutras explains that the purpose of yoga is the cessation of the mind stuff – this is to say that yoga is stillness of the mind. The mind stuff that is mentioned here is also referred to as chitta vritti, or mental fluctuations. These mental fluctuations are all a part of the human experience and something that binds all human beings. That said, mental fluctuations can cause needless suffering according to Patanjali and therefore, yoga is meant to help us avoid this unnecessary suffering.
This is why practitioners report feelings of release – yoga has been specially created and practiced over time with the intention of bringing about peace. Over thousands of years, we have seen practitioners follow the eight-limbed path of yoga and discover the benefits of yoga. We know that it works. It is called a practice because it is something that we will continuously come back to and never really complete. The human experience is what we all have in common. With the human experience comes mental fluctuations and the suffering and dis-ease that may precipitate. Yoga is an ever-present process that we can utilize to make the human experience feel a bit more easeful.
There are five mental fluctuations, or chitta vritti, that we see arise in the human experience. They are as follows: right knowledge, perception, verbalization, memory, and sleep. All of these mental fluctuations are what come together to create how we view the world that we live in. Remember, perception is not reality meaning everyone experiences the world in a different way based on their lived experiences and their mental fluctuations. The chitta vritti can, overtime, create samskaras. Samskaras are habits that are deeply ingrained in us due to years of relying on said habits as our primary response. When a specific stimulus is perceived, this is the reaction that we tend towards. As we continue to rely on this reaction, we reinforce its importance to our brains and tell the brain and other systems that this is our preferred reaction so that every time a similar stimulus arises, we lean to this reaction. This is a normal part of the human experience and there are ways to begin to break old samskaras and create new ones. Yoga is one of them.
We can utilize our mental fluctuations as a gateway to our internal state. We can use our mental fluctuations as a tool to observe what may be arising within us that is keeping us from living the most authentic life. Mental fluctuations can bring up the five messengers that we talk about in mindfulness coaching – messengers of underlying ideas that affect our perception and, therefore, how we show up in the world. When we can acknowledge these mental fluctuations and their messages, we can begin to work through them and choose how we want to show up in the world. This space allows us to begin to respond rather than react. Yoga is a tool that we can harness to begin to learn how we react, why we react, and develop an understanding of how we want to respond. Our daily yoga practice then creates the space for us to practice this new response until it becomes ingrained in us, becomes a new samskara to replace the old one that was no longer serving us. This is a process that we have access to for our entire lives and one that we encourage you to lean into often, always meeting yourself exactly as you are in each and every moment.
If you’re interested in learning more about yoga and mental fluctuations, My Vinyasa Practice’s 200-hour online yoga teacher training might be a great choice for you! You can also begin to experience the sacred practice and benefits of yoga through their online app with livestream and on-demand yoga classes!