What Is The True Purpose of Yoga?
In his classic work the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes yoga as “the progressive quieting of the fluctuations of the mind.” He then explains that through dedicated practice and the cultivation of detachment, we will stop identifying with the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that can cause us so much emotional pain—and we will open to an experience of our true self.
As Patanjali and so many other wisdom teachers have taught, who we really are goes beyond the labels and titles we often use to define ourselves. When asked “Who are you?” most people identify themselves in terms of their positions, roles, and relationships.
You might answer, “I am a math teacher,” or “I am a mother.” You may identify with where you live, saying “I’m a New Yorker.” You may also define yourself in terms of your political affiliations, your hobbies, or your culture.
Although we all have a tendency to identify ourselves with the external aspects of our lives, yoga encourages us to go deeper into our being and find the inner place that is beyond temporary anchors. This is the source of all energy and creativity in life.
Breaking free from the prison of memory
All thoughts can be classified as either memories or desires. When your mind is active, you’re either thinking about something that happened in the past or you’re anticipating something in the future. The Sanskrit word for memory or past impression is samskara, while the word for desire is vasana.
Impressions give rise to desires. If you see an advertisement for a flashy car, tropical vacation spot, or designer suit, an impression is born in your mind that may give rise to a specific desire.
As a result of this desire, you are compelled to take action, such as going to the car showroom, calling your travel agent, or visiting your local boutique. The action that emerges from the desire is called karma. This endless cycle of impressions giving rise to desires, giving rise to actions, resulting in new impressions, is the circuitry that keeps your mind perpetually active.
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