“The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.”
In a recent post on this blog, the Yamas and Niyamas, I talked about adding a little yoga philosophy into a running life. In this post I’d like to look at another piece of wisdom from the Indian sage Patanjali, as translated in the classic book, ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’. Written by Sri Swami Satchidananda the book is an interpretation of Patanjali’s sanskrit writings on yoga, and acts as a guide to yoga philosophy.
So what is meant by the statement: ‘the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff’? Simply put it means to have control over the mind.
On Friday I went trail running with a friend, who is an avid & competitive cyclist, an artist and also a yoga teacher! We started talking about the true meaning of yoga, and all the different types of yoga you can do (see a few listed HERE).
We concluded that really it doesn’t matter what type of physical yoga practice you do – the focus should be the same: preparing the body so that you can focus on ‘modifying the mind-stuff’, developing mental control in preparation for meditation – as written by Patanjali. But how does that relate to our every day lives, and even physical activities such as running?
And here’s the link… who hasn’t felt the mind wandering at certain times in an endurance event? And when does the mental ‘chatter’ usually start to happen? Is it when you start to get tired, or when something changes? Is it when you perceive a fellow runner coming up on your shoulder?
If any competitive endurance athlete, or sports person of any kind begins to ‘modify their mind-stuff’, then they are quite naturally doing yoga. It is an amazingly simple concept that we may already be applying, or can try to apply in our long runs, our marathons, our easy runs or fartleks.
And if you’re looking for ways in which to incorporate ‘mental mastery’ into your running, hiking, biking or swimming – a great way to start is by trying to add a couple of relaxation techniques mid-activity, so that you can then gain some mental strength:
1. Loosen the shoulders. At the first sign or sensation of tiredness inhale deeply, and then exhale and drop the shoulders. Often tension is held in the shoulders and neck when we are tired. Think fluid.
2. Don’t fight it. Acknowledge the feeling of being tired, but don’t fight it – this will only create more tension, and then more tiredness etc etc. Instead, inhale, and exhale and literally try to ‘let go’ of any further tension in your body – especially in the arms and face. Think breadcrumb-making fingers, soft face.
3. Glide. Inhale again, and imagine your spine is lengthening and you are growing in height. Exhale, and with your mind as still as a calm lake, skate on through the last section of your workout (or race) as you dig deep into the physical reserves that you have already created through months and weeks of training. Think I can do this.
There is a statement in ‘The Yoga Sutras’ book that sums up the brilliance of being able to control our ‘mind’stuff’:
“So, if you can have control over the thought forms and change them as you want, you are not bound by the outside world… You can make it a heaven or a hell according to your approach.”
A great way to learn more about ‘mind-stuff’ and relaxation in motion is by attending a yoga class!
Check out your local studio, or if you live on Oahu – drop @longrunyoga a line and look up our Yoga-for-Runners class on Monday nights in Moiliili.