Of flow and restraint

It is time for the inevitable period of flux as things begin to shift yet again. Friday’s class felt vey silent inside despite all the lively comments by our teacher. We did mostly a backbend prep with salabhasana and a touch-and-go ustrasana. It was followed by a quiet supta virasana and baddakonasana before wrapping up in savasana. On Saturday, I had a fun home practice of Surya Namaskars with my little girl followed by a revision of Friday’s class. Sunday saw me spending time on the texts. 

Three days, three different moods, three different practices. Underlying all of them is my difficulty with japa sadhana. On an objective level, I see the play of an active rajoguna in all aspects of my life, starting with my morning breath. For the first time, I had an experential sense of how the breath controls the mind. Guruji’s quote, “Breath is the king of the mind” communicates this perfectly. 

As always I find the answers to my struggles readily available in the books of great masters. There are no superfluous words in the commentaries and each word speaks volumes.

From the Yog Sutras

व्युत्थाननिरोधसंस्कारयोरभिभदप्रादुर्भावौ निरोधक्षणचित्तान्वयो निरोधपरिणामः ।९।

Study of the silent moments between rising and restraining subliminal impressions is the transformation of consciousness towards restraint (nirodha parinamah)

Guruji explains, But at first, it is difficult to educate the consciousness to restrain each rising thought. It is against the thought current (pratipaksha) and hence creates restlessness, whereas the movement from restraint towards rising thought is with the current (paksha), and brings restfulness. The first method requires force of will and so is tinged with rajas. The second is slightly sattvic, but tinged with tamas. To transform the consciousness into a pure sattvic state of dynamic silence, we must learn by repeated effort to prolong the intermissions.

– Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar

From the Bhagwad Geeta

असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम्
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते।।३५।।
The Blessed Lord said: Undoubtedly, O mighty-armed one, the mind is difficult to control and is restless; but, by practice, O Son of Kunti, and by dispassion, it is restrained.

Swamiji explains, Through practice and renunciation, the mind can be brought under control in the beginning, and ultimately to a perfect ‘halt’ – this is the confident, reassuring declaration of the Lord in the Geeta.

Thus viewed, practice (Abhyasa) srengthens renunciation (Sannyasa), which generates detachment (Vairagya), and which in turn deepens meditation (Abhyasa). Hand in hand, each strengthens the other. Thus the total progress is steadily maintained. 

From the moment we start trying to become aware of our own lives, we are in the realm of ‘practice'(Abhyasa). As a result of this, the detachment that comes automatically to us is the true and enduring ‘detachment’ (Vairagya).

When through right “practice” enduring “detachment” has come into our inner lives, then, the mind comes under our control.

– Commentary on The Holy Geeta by Swami Chinmayananda

It all boils down to abhyasa and vairagyam. One cannot exist without the other and unless there is balance between the two the scales are forever in vritti.  It makes me think of the parallels of guna in the two essentials of sadhana. Without Vairagyam, there is excessive rajas and without the right abhyasa, there is the dullness of tamas. In the equal marriage of the two, there is a predominance of sattva, where the magic happens.

This kind of a stuck phase is a familiar one when there is change happening in the background. I don’t know what kind of change is in progress when it appears as though there is stagnation but eventually, the butterfly emerges and flutters before plunging into another cycle of destruction and birth. 

Hari Om

Study material and references from

  1. Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar
  2. The Holy Geeta Commentary by Swami Chinmayananda

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