There are many practices of yoga. Self-inquiry is one of them.
Many people think of yoga as stretching and strengthening the body. And anyone who has been doing The Work of Byron Katie for a while can easily notice the similarity between the The Work and physical yoga.
In The Work, you stretch your mind by considering the very opposite of what you believe. People who do The Work regularly become very flexible in their thinking.
In the ancient tradition of India, physical stretches are only a small part of what is known as yoga. In the second sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, yoga is defined as “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah (yoga is the cessation of the mind’s fluctuations).”
What causes the mind to fluctuate? Believing thoughts like, “I want…, I need, He should…, She shouldn’t.” These thoughts, that the world should be different than it is, drive the mind out away from balance.
The Work brings the mind back to balance by questioning the validity of these wants, needs and shoulds. When these charged thoughts lose validity through questioning, the fluctuations of the mind settle down. This is the beginning of peace. This is yoga.
There is a verse from the Bhagavad-Gita, another ancient text on yoga, “Let that disunion with the union with sorrow be known by the name of Yoga (Union).” 6:23
I love this definition of yoga. There is nothing that needs to be created, or added, to experience yoga (union). Unity is my nature. It is only my attachment to beliefs like, “I want…, I need… etc.” that cause sorrow.
When I question those beliefs which bring me sorrow, they cease to grip the mind, and my natural unity (yoga) is allowed to surface. All we do in The Work is to “disunite” ourselves from the “union with sorrow.”
The most specific reference from the ancient yoga tradition that describes The Work is this: “vitarka-badhane pratipaksha-bhavanam, (in the case of negativity, think the opposite thought).” 2:33
This sutra describes in compact form the practice of The Work, which opens the mind to the very opposite of what it believes.
And that’s what I love about The Work: you don’t have to figure it out. You don’t have to understand why you’re suffering; you just have to start walking in the opposite direction. In doing so, you move most quickly away from suffering. It’s that simple.
This is yoga… restoring balance to the mind by coming back home.
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