Yoga & Meditation

Yoga, Discipline and a Sufficiently Long Time

Yoga, Discipline and a Sufficiently Long Time

Maharishi Patanjali begins his treatise on Yoga with two words:

Atha Yogaanushaasanam

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in his commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali beautifully explains the connection between Yoga and Discipline. This enlightening discourse is available to the student of Yoga as an online module on Udemy. As such we will not go into it here.

Recently, my good friend and wiser and better half, Madhuri Karode, has explained how when Yoga and Discipline do a tango, magic happens on the dance floor of life! And yet, I have seen many a Yoga student start enthusiastically, continue for some time and give up disheartened; “Its not working for me,” they say.

Trained Chemical Engineers have a firm grounding on rate processes. Some are quick response while others are slower to respond; like, put a frying pan on a gas burner and go touch its center in a minute or so… We all know better than to do that! Others are sluggish: pour cold honey out of its bottle and watch patiently as it flows.

And then there are processes within processes and processes interacting with processes, rate determining processes, yada yada yada. All this comes together when we design control loops for complex ChE systems, like, distillation columns for example. Make too large a change in a process variable and the column will oscillate out of control; make too rapid a measurement of a process variable to monitor a change and the control loop may wind itself up thinking “Its not working!”

The keen scientist Maharashi Patanjali figured all this out a long long time ago:

Sa tu dheerghakaala…

That is the master stroke by Patanjali. He succinctly summarized all the ChE jargon of rate processes yada yada yada into the above three words which mean:

“It takes sufficiently long time…”

My Chemical Engineering Controls professor at IIT-Bombay told us a story once. He was explaining to us speed of control loops and how they need to be tuned for the intrinsic rate process being controlled and he said, “If it takes 20 minutes for the train to go from Kanjurmarg (metro station next to IIT-B) to Dadar (metro station in center city Mumbai), running in the train will not help you get there faster.”

What our Controls professor explained is that for processes which are slow acting, the immediate changes are incremental only. It is best to wait for these incremental changes to add up to something substantially measureable.

This is why the enthusiastic Yoga student gives up saying that “Its not working for me”: the changes made by the Yoga practice are small and not immediately discernable! Its like a flower blooming… watching it multiple times a day and saying “Its not changing!”.

It takes incremental adjustments over long time to make a lasting and permanent discernable change to any complex system. And, this is exactly what Patanjali has said in his Yoga Sutras. There are two conditions that together are both necessary and sufficient for any Yoga practice to bear fruit:

The first necessary condition is that the Yoga practice must be done Without Interruption. The sufficient condition is that it needs to be done For a Sufficiently Long Time. Once these two conditions are met, the Yoga practice becomes firmly established in you! Done. It’s that simple!

To the student of Yoga about to give up or to the brave person about to begin his or her practice of Yoga, I say, relax, have patience, don’t be in a hurry to get there (where ever “there” is). It takes a sufficiently long timeand running in the train won’t get you there any faster!

To the person who is reluctant to start a Yoga practice, there is another clue here. Start the Yoga practice now when things are going well.

When you are in a crisis situation, looking for calm and stability from a Yoga practice may be too late! For example, starting Yoga for diabetes and/or weight management or thinking of hitting the yoga mat to manage anxiety and depression.

Remember the Titanic? It turns oh-so-slowly! The lookout had spotted the iceberg… the rudder was set for the turn… and yet…! There was not sufficient time for the system to respond!!

Start NOW when things are going well:

“Sa tu dheerghakaala nairantharya sathkaara sevito dridha bhoomih”

The discipline of Yoga when practiced for a sufficiently long time (dheerghakaala), without interruption (nairantharya), with honor and respect to the practice (sathkaara sevito) gets established firmly in our system (dridha bhoomi).

This is a necessary and sufficient condition.