Essay from Yoga Teacher Training Final Test

Patanjali’s Sutra 3.9 reads:

The mind is capable of having two states based on two distinct tendencies. These are distraction and attention. At any one moment, however, only one state prevails, and this state influences the individual’s behavior, attitudes, and expressions. 

Share what this means to you and how you can present this concept in your classes.

If one believes that yoga is about calming the restless mind, then one can understand how the mind has two states- the distracted, restless, “monkey mind” and the focused, calm and attentive mind. The Sanskrit “chitta vritta niroda” explains this as the restraint of the modifications of the mind ‘stuff’. In a yoga practice, pranayama can help to calm the restless mind. Using the Yamas and Niyamas as a means to keep ones’ outward practices to others as well as ones’ personal disciplines, niyamas, using service and gratitude as a foundation for ones’ life as well as ones’ practice. The pranayama, or breath, can help keep one centered and calm.

A pranayama practice is an important part of any yoga practice. Besides being one of the eight limbs, it is also the means to calm the mind, center the attention, as well as regulate bodily functions. Pranayama, along with asanas in a yoga practice, are connected in that the activity of one will affect the activity of another. If one uses their asana practice, noticing their breathing in each pose, feeling sthira, steady and alert, as well as sukha, comfortable, then the mind will follow the cues of the body and remain steady, alert and comfortable.

In a pranayama practice, using abdominal/diaphragmatic breath as a means to relax the mind and body, one will also feel less distracted. Also, an alternate nostril breath, nadi shodhana, can help balance both hemispheres of the brain and create a relaxed calm mind.

Distractions happen all the time. It is just a part of life. But, by understanding the eight limbs and practicing asana and pranayama as a regular part of ones day, the person can find stillness and centeredness in the mind, thus creating a space where decisions can be made more easily and reactions can be calmed to just responses.

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