abhyāsayoga

(‘practice leading to yoga’)

Controlling the vagaries of the mind and concentrating it on a chosen object or theme is a formidable task. Only those who have attempted it can vouch for its near impossibility. However, the great teachers of yoga assure us that it is not impossible, though difficult. With the right attitude and determined practice, this becomes possible. The path prescribed is abhyāsayoga. This term which seems to be the creation of the Bhagavadgītā (8.8 and 12.9), a highly venerated scripture of Hinduism, has been interpreted in two slightly different but compatible ways:

  • abhyāsa or practice leading to yoga or concentration;
  • abhyāsa or practice which is itself yoga since it leads to yoga or concentration. Withdrawing the mind repeatedly from the various objects towards which it is naturally drawn and fixing it upon the desired goal is abhyāsa. When this fixing becomes steady and grows in intensity, it ripens into yoga or perfect concentration, also called samādhi. Hence abhyāsa and yoga form the preliminary and final stages of the same discipline. Retiring into solitude, choosing the right place conducive to yoga, observing moderation in all aspects of daily life, practising self-control—these are some of the disciplines recommended by the Bhagavadgītā for abhyāsayoga (vide 6.10-28).