Many yogis consider Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to be the heart of yogic philosophy. The sutras are like a guide to the practice of yoga through short sentences called sutras. The second sutra is the definition of yoga—Yoga is the effort towards steadiness of mind: notice the word ‘effort.’ Another of my favorite quotes about ‘effort’ is from the Bhagavad Gita: “You have control over actions alone, never over its fruits. Live not for the fruits of action, nor attach yourself to inaction. Established in yoga, O Arjuna, perform actions having abandoned attachment and having become balanced in success and failure, for balance of mind is called Yoga.” I love the part about not attaching to inaction. I guess the idea is that effort towards something as beneficial as yoga practice is really the best any of us can do.
How often do we find ourselves in a state of inaction due to frustration, boredom, “busyness,” or despair? I like the idea of making an effort every day towards something greater than myself. Many of us, myself included, keep ourselves in a place of comfort. Comfort is, well, comfortable—but is not necessarily a place of growth. You would think that steadiness of mind would be comfortable, but it is often anything but. Steadiness of mind takes real focus and discipline. It is easier to follow every stimulus that crosses our path. The practice of yoga asana is also not particularly comfortable at first, but it can become so. The challenge is to continue on that path of effort. Not on a physical level necessarily, but more on a level of focus and breath.
At this time of year, it is admirable to make time for things like yoga practice. For many, yoga practice is considered to be a luxury. I believe it is a discipline that gives clarity and focus to all things in life, makes one more patient, creates a healthier body and mind, and opens the door for all kinds of progress and growth. I believe the effort towards steadiness of mind leads to an effort towards a more thoughtful and compassionate way of living. That truly is what this time of year is supposed to be about. Happy holidays and peace to all!