Posted by: Bruce Black | June 1, 2015

“Settling the Mind…”

“Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.”

This is the second line in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and it’s both mysterious and profound.

What makes it so profound is its assumption that the mind has the ability to settle into silence, that we have the ability to quiet our thoughts rather than let them run wild through our minds.

And what makes it so mysterious is how the process works, how yoga can help us find a way to settle our minds and discover a silent space within ourselves where we can experience the joy of peace and contentment.

I find interesting, too, how the statement points out that yoga is the settling of the mind. Yoga is not struggling to settle the mind, nor is it trying to settle the mind. It is the process of settling the mind.

That’s a fairly expansive definition of yoga, isn’t it? It suggests that yoga is anything that helps you settle the mind into silence.

The yoga poses—the asanas—that we spend time learning in class, and which we work to refine day after day, are part of this process of settling the mind, of coming to a place of peacefulness and contentment.

But yoga is more than asanas, if I understand the statement correctly.

It is breathing deeply… if breathing helps settle the mind.

Or meditation… if meditating helps settle the mind.

Or running or bicycle riding or swimming or dancing or, or, or… whatever helps settle the mind.

Would sipping a cup of warm tea constitute a yoga practice? Yes… if sipping tea helps settle the mind.

What I love about thinking of yoga in this light is that yoga can happen anywhere–on our mat or off our mat–at any time of day, at any moment of our lives.

It can happen when we’re showering or eating breakfast or driving our cars or walking to work.

It can happen while we’re hugging a friend or kissing a grandparent or making love to our partner, or while we’re gardening or cleaning the bathroom or doing the laundry or writing in our journals.

Our lives are full of opportunities to practice yoga.

Practice Journal: What is yoga? How would you define your yoga practice after thinking about the implications of the words “Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.” What causes your mind to race with thoughts? What causes your mind to settle into silence? When do you feel most at peace and most content? Write: 10 min.

Note:  “Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.” from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated and introduced by Alistair Shearer, Bell Tower, NY (1982).

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Responses

  1. If you are sipping your tea with a specific intention to calm or settle the mind, then it is yoga. If settling the mind is a side effect of an activity, such as watching TV or taking a Valium, then those don’t seem to qualify as yoga, just because the mind got settled. Yoga “yokes” intention to action, and as such, the mind “settles” on the particular action/intention. You can think of the word settle here in the context of choosing one particular thing instead of all they myriad possibilities that lie before you. Once you settle on one of them, use your skillful action to unify body and mind. Thanks for the sutra study, Bruce! I was wondering when the next one was going to come around!

    • What a lovely comment, Cheryl. Thanks for making the important distinction between intention and side effect, a distinction that I might have overlooked without your kind observations and insights. So glad you stopped by for the latest “sutra study.” I hope to post another on the first of July. Stay tuned.


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