Learning To Stop



I’ve been having a fantastic time teaching Yin Yoga workshops in Luxembourg and Munich. Tonight, I will wrap up the final leg of this trip with an Yin intensive in Zürich.

Throughout these workshops, I’ve been addressing a theme that I think is becoming increasingly relevant:how we engage with our practice. Are we practicing to get into a ‘yogic’ state of mind? Are we practicing to become a better person? Are we running away from an unflattering aspect of ourselves? I know that I’ve mis-used practice in all these common ways, and still fall into these pot-holes if I’m not mindful of them.

A theme that I have found extremely important is the pragmatic reflection on the practice of ‘stopping’.  The Sanskrit word for this is nirodha,which often gets translated as ‘cessation’. And a common context for this word is found the Yoga Sutra’s definition of yoga ‘as the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.’

In light of this definition, many a sincere yogi has labored intensively, trying to stop their thinking mind. Forget for the moment that there are far easier (and faster) ways to stop the thinking mind than hours and hours of yoga practice. What is most unfortunate about this interpretation is that it establishes an energy of control as the means to freedom, where, in fact, a controlling mind only begets more control, and true freedom continually recedes against the horizon of our spiritual goals.

A different interpretation which I have found to be very practical and helpful is to see nirodha as a way of stopping one’s mind from moving withthe fluctuations of the mind. In other words, one simply relaxes into awareness, disengaging the tendency for awareness to movewith thought.

Thoughts still move through consciousness, but the awareness of thought remains steady, and within that steadiness lies a rugged peace.

Experiment with letting this perspective frame your practice(s).
And let me know how it goes.


Originally published on March 25, 2011