A new interest of mine has been looking at different translations of the yoga sutras. I can then take those new or differing ideas and apply them in my own practice. One differing translation that I love is from a translation by Chip Hartranft (free copy @ http://www.arlingtoncenter.org/Sanskrit-English.pdf). Hartranft's translation of sutra 1.2 is "yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness." I particularly like this translation as it differs greatly from others that often replace the word "consciousness" with the word "thought". This could then lead the reader to believe that yoga is to still thought - which I believe is not the intent of this sutra.
In my mind, the meaning of "the patterning of conciousness" means gaining a greater understanding of the self. The mind is trained to bring the person back to their patterns -whether they be right or wrong. Yoga is intended to pull those patterns into conciousness. This includes your physical practice as well as your attitudes, actions, movement, breath, and more.
When you take yoga classes and begin to create your own practice, you get to know your patterns and tendencies. For example, I know that I have difficulty fully extending my spine in forward bends. Through yoga, I then learn to come into poses slowly, with integrity, to keep the spine lengthening fully - even if it is difficult.
What I learn on the mat is also applicable outside off the mat. For example, if I know I comfort myself with eating - I can draw this to my attention and learn to bring that pattern into consciousness. From there, I can hopefully make better decisions.
Through yoga we bring ethical matters to our attention. Our body, breath, mind, and concentration all come into consciousness (or at least move toward consciousness).
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