Yoga is the cessation of mind. That’s the definition Patanjali gives of yoga in his yoga sutras. When you do yoga, the mind stops; the thinking stops, the identifying stops. What will rest is peace, quietness and happiness.
There are an incredible amount of definitions what yoga ‘is’. Yoga as a word means in Sanskrit: meeting, union, joining together, so yoga is often seen as the meeting between the universe and ‘the self’. But that’s not the way Patanjali – the sage who first wrote about yoga – describes it. He just states: Yoga is the cessation of mind. Nothing more, nothing less.
The mind in this case stands for everything you are thinking, hoping for, have learned in the past, all the emotions you have been through and who have left an imprint behind, affecting your future behaviour. In the eyes of the yogis the mind is standing in your way to achieve ultimate happiness. Why? Because we are living in our heads. We are always hoping, assuming, evaluating and by doing that, we actually make ourselves unhappy.
How it works, is really simple. We have a party on a Saturday evening. The week before we are really looking forward to this party, planning what we are going to wear, dreaming about who will be there, what will happen. That this beautiful girl of guy will be there and that we finally will walk up to her/him. Our mind, our fantasy becomes wilder and wilder, dreaming about this big party. So on a scale of 1 to 10 we give it a 9. When Saturday evening finally arrives, we go to this party. The beautiful girl/guy is not there and the whole party is good, but not as good as we have thought it would be on forehand. Let’s say it’s a seven. So we go home disappointed. Why? Because we created an image in our mind and reality didn’t live up to this image. But if we wouldn’t have created this image on forehand, we wouldn’t have been disappointed.
It works the other way around as well. Let’s take the same party, but this time we don’t feel like going, because none of our close friends go, we are tired and we know the people who give this party will just play dreadful music all night. No suddenly there is a dj, playing great music, there are all new people, who turn out to be real party animals and we meet the girl/guy of our dreams, who actually is interested in us. So on forehand we would have rated the party as a 3 on the scale of 1 to 10, but it turns out to be a seven. This time we are happy with the seven.
How often don’t we have meetings, appointments, dates we don’t want to go to? In our head we create whole scenarios of all the shit people will say to us, how we will blamed for things we haven’t done, or have done. We have all kinds of emotions about things that don’t even have taken place. And when they do, they are not as shit as we imagined them to be. But by that time we already had all these emotions. For nothing.
It’s a trick our mind place on us. We don’t live in the moment, we live in the future of the past and by doing so, we suffer. Stopping the mind, is stopping our suffering. And that is what yoga is aiming for cessation of the mind. So we can live in the moment and just be happy.