Quieting the chatter of the mind

The Yoga Sutras are a series of brief sayings (sutra means thread) that were written down by a yogi named Patanjali about 2500 years ago as a means of recording the basics of what the yogis at that time had learned about yoga and the yogic way of life. There are numerous translations from the original Sanskrit into English, and most of these translations come with their own set of commentaries on these short threads of insight.

One of my favorites of these sayings is Yoga Sutra 1.2 in which Patajali gives the definition of yoga. I’ve seen numerous long-winded and eloquent translations of this, but the one that is most meaningful to me is “Yoga is the ability to quiet the chatter of the mind.” What a simple definition, but what a challenging task for each of us to learn!

Although most people think of the physical postures when they think of yoga, it’s all really about learning to quiet the chatter of the mind. I can’t count the number of times I’ve wished that I had a switch on the side of my head where I could just turn off my mind for a little while to gain a little peace and quiet—just a moment of stillness away from the rushing whirlwind of thought that barrels through my head every waking minute. So what a gift it is as I grow into my yoga practice to catch glimpses of this ability to quiet the chatter of the mind.

I still have a long way to go, but as I come back to my mat again and again to practice the postures, linking body and mind through the breath, I increasingly catch the spaces between the thoughts. I find more ability to notice them and let them fly on by without engaging any energy in them. I am more and more able to be present in this moment, in this space, in my body. I am able to take that step back and be a witness of my own thoughts.

This freedom from the tyranny of the mental chatter is what keeps me coming back to the mat, coming back to learn the ability to quiet the chatter of the mind.