Yoga & Monkey Mind

Yoga & Monkey Mind – Live in Harmony with Your Mental Companion

Students come to yoga classes for all kinds of reasons. Along with the most common ones of stretching, exercising and the like, I often hear “get out of my head”. What does it mean and how exactly does yoga help accomplish that? In the bustling world we inhabit, our minds often resemble a troupe of monkeys, swinging from one thought to another with reckless abandon.

Both Vedanta and Buddhism depict our typical mental state as “the monkey mind.” Just like monkeys, our thoughts dart from branch to branch, changing direction abruptly and occasionally hurling something unseemly at unsuspecting passers-by.

This incessant mental chatter can leave us feeling drained, overwhelmed, and disconnected from our inner selves. Fortunately, yoga offers a sanctuary—a path to harnessing control over the tumultuous fluctuations of the mind.

If we let them run wild, our thoughts swing wildly from one idea to the next. This is understandable – after all it’s your mind’s job to process a huge load of information every minute. In and out of itself it can be pretty tiring to juggle so many pieces of information. Then there is a bigger problem of emotional associations.

While some thoughts are neutral in their emotional coloring, many others carry an emotional charge, meaning that happy thoughts carry us up to the top of the world, but then quickly – whoop! – we swing again into worry and frustration, following the next unpleasant thought that comes along. So the sheer amount of information and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it take a toll on how we move through our days and perceive our lives in general.

Fundamentally, yoga is about controlling the fluctuation of the mind. This involves taking charge of those monkeys’ behaviour and gradually reducing the emotional charge associated with specific thoughts. Theoretically, any yoga practice should help the student focus the mind and attain some sort of inner equilibrium.

From our own experience we know that this is not always the case. If the mind is used to jumping from place to place at break-neck speed, it is not so easy to tame it and make it calm. We can’t really stop thinking (nor should we). So if we just bark at the mind : “Be quiet, stop it”, it will only become more agitated. That’s why many people say: “I can’t meditate, my mind is too busy”. I am sorry to say – everybody’s mind is busy. Some people just became more skilled at redirecting mind’s activity and helping it focus on something useful rather then letting it roam free.

The secret ingredient

According to the yoga tradition – one pointed focus is the secret ingredient. Pick an object, idea or technique and maintain that focus for as long as you can. When you are absorbed in your work or doing something that you really enjoy, or play sports or whatever – you are there, you are focused. They call it “being in the zone”, but it simply means being fully present with what you are doing.

When we say “get out of my head”, we usually mean “stop compulsive thinking and be fully present”. And the more often you do it, the easier it becomes.

That’s why practicing one-pointed focus in your yoga practice it’s so important – it helps you get out of the usual monkey-mind state, focus your mind and then carry that skill into your day-to-day life.


Also read: “Yoga philosophy”

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