the poetry of the yoga sutras of patanjali 1.2

sutra 1.2 yoga citta vritti nirodhaha*

This article is part of a series. With each specific Yoga Sutra of focus, I offer poetic insight into the verse. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali contain everything that we need to know. They were originally chanted and then discussed. As a devotee to the path of Yoga, the Yoga Sutras hold a sacred space for us all Yogis. May this series inspire you to sit at the table and share the journey with others.

Sutra 1.2 yoga citta vritti nirodhaha*

Yoga quiets the swirls in the mindfield that hinders the process of developing clarity and clear perception.

Patanjali reveals the essence of Yoga in this sutra. All other 194 sutras are basically explaining this one. The interpretation we most often hear of YS1.2 is, “ Yoga is the cessation of the mindstuff.” This translation has created two main confusions:

1. We can never stop the mind as its nature is that it churns. The mindstuff never disappears it only quiets. All the noise and energy created from the thoughts that fire off in all directions can often overwhelm and exhaust a person.  Sound familiar?

2. It is the process of quieting where we gain the most knowledge. It is not the stopping of the thoughts that is the goal. Many people choose to not embark on yoga because the thought of facing their mind overwhelms them and the idea of “having” to “cease” their thougths is daunting.

Often we choose to find people to help us digest our mind… psychologists, pyschotherapsits, counselors…etc.  The basis of many imbalances are cognitive and I bow to the wisdom of the Yogis that recognized we must begin by developing an understanding for the mind. However, it’s not the end point…it’s where we begin the journey.

Jafar Alexander, Director of 200 hr Beloved Yoga Teacher Training, shares that this process of quieting is akin to, “Setting aside the transient nature (of the mind) that we get stuck in, and allowing space for clarity on how the layers of life and ourselves that change and remain unchanged support each other….But first, we must step out of the whirlpool of “vritti” so that we see and understand more than one side, more than one perspective.”

Yoga is the intelligent process of not only quieting the mind stuff but also understanding it through personal self inquiry (cultivating knowledge through practice) of the mindfield (citta) and it’s inhabitants (vritti).

This Sutra is stating WHAT is Yoga? (Sutra 1.3 will reveal to us the WHY of Yoga…)

Poem 1.2

As I enter the inner field
I pause and breathe
looking around in awe
at the swirl of thoughts 
moving through space

I notice that space is infinite
I am overwhelmed…
I wonder if the thoughts are
reflective of the space they are housed in

The act of breathing
creates a distance for me to step back
to observe
without getting tangled into the mess
of the inner field
I see what is perceived as a bundle
of tangled knotted stuck and bound thoughts
just in need of a little space …they begin to  naturally consciously
rearrange themselves and
find their proper place in space



Read about Sutra 1.1 atha yoga anushasanam