To overcome Monotony and Distraction in Yoga !

Svādhyāya and Yoga

Series 1 – Post – 2

This is the second post in the series of Verses from Sage Vyāsa’s commentary to Yogasūtras. In the previous post a unique invocation to Sage Patañjali was presented with paraphrased meaning.

The next verse that appears in the commentary of Sage Vyāsa is in Sūtra 1.28 – tajjapas-tadartha-bhāvanam . This presents a unique method to keep the mind always focused in the state of Yoga.

Sometimes while practicing Yoga – monotony sets in. The same āsana , Same set of prāṇāyāmas and so on. Monotony itself is a distraction. Monotony leads to boredom, lack of interest and ushers lack of mindfulness. And this defeats the purpose of Yoga – mindfulness. The verse given below gives hints to overcome monotony in the practice of Yoga.

स्वाध्यायाद्योगमासीत योगात्स्वाध्यायमामनेत्।

स्वाध्याययोगसंपत्त्या परमात्मा प्रकाशते ॥

svādhyāyād yogamāsīta yogāt svādhyāyam āmanet।
paramātmā prakāśate ॥ 

Meaning of the Verse 

With svādhyāya one should practice Yoga. And with Yoga one should practice svādhyāyā. Only by the combination of the svādhyāyā and Yoga the Supreme consciousness shines forth

Going by the context of the Sūtra- the term Svādhyāya here means Japa. Repetition of Mantras. This underlines the importance of utilization of recitation of mantras in the practice of Yoga. Shri Krishnamacharya and Shri TKV Desikachar are pioneers in integrating Mantras with the practice of Yoga. Chants in the practice of Yoga removes monotony. Brings in more mindfulness. The mind resonates with the vibration of the chants and also the meaning of them. Thus Chanting helps in the practice of Asanas and pranayama.

The vice versa is also beneficial. Rather merely sitting and chanting, it will be more beneficial to synchronize body, breath and mind along with the Mantras. Samantraka practice of āsana, prāṇāyāma and dhyāna have always been preferred over their practice bereft of mantra.

The idea of Samantraka-dhyāna is highlighted by Sage śaṅkara in his commentary as follows –  

In śaṅkara vivaraṇa we see that – the mental Japa of praṇava directed towars īśvara is presented as Svādhyāya and meditation on īśvara is Yoga. This suggestions works in the practice of Dhyāna. Many a time a practitioner sets out to meditate and rather than focusing on the chosen object ends up exhausted chasing various thoughts influenced by his previous Vāsanas. This practice helps overcome it.

Another important input from the same commentary is worth noting. It is stated that – mānaso’bhijapaḥ praśasyate dhyānasyāsannataratvāt – mental repetition of mantras are closer to meditation. Hence by mental repetition of ‘Om’ and then focusing on the qualities of īśvara presented in Yoga-sūtra the goal of Yoga is reached.

Yoga vārttika adds some more insights on this verse. It is stated that – yogajapayorekadā na saṃbhava iti yogasyādyantayorvyutthānakāle japa uktaḥ

Meditation and Japa/repetition of the ‘om’ are not possible to do simultaneously. Hence in the beginning and also at the end of the ‘Yoga’ – meditation, the repetition of Om can be done when the mind will be distracted (before Yoga or after Yoga when mind will be descending into chaos/distraction).

Further, pātañjalarahasya , a sub-commentary to Vācaspatimiśra’s Tattvaiśāradī presents another perspective. A verse is quoted there -“when one is tired of repetition of Mantras (Japa), one should meditate upon śiva (Dhyāna). If one is tired of meditation repetition of  the mantras (Japa) should be done. 

The Bhāsvatī Commentary presents yet another perspective. It is stated that by Svādhyāya – which is continuous repetition of ‘Om’ one should attain Yoga – which is one-pointedness (ekāgratā) of the mind. And by Yoga – the insights attained by the one-pointedness of the mind on ‘om’ one should intensify repetition. In this manner by symbiotic effort between Yoga and Svādhyāya the absolute truth shines forth.

Thus, as can be seen, the two tools Svādhyāya and Yoga used in tandem can keep a practitioner focused on Yoga even when there is wave after wave of distractions and distress caused by our various day to day transactions.

Further a combination of two tools, one aiming at the periphery (Svādhyāya – in the form of Japa) and the other focusing on the core (Yoga – meditation) in tandem can keep monotony in practice of Yoga at arms length.

Svādhyāya and Yoga are two tools shown as a sample. It is an indication that other mutually complementary tools in Yoga can be intelligently used in tandem or in combination to continually maintain focus and sustain interest.

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