Yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ; which roughly translates into “yoga starts when fluctuations of the mind cease”, or to be accurate, when your identification with these fluctuation ceases, that roller coaster, aka your monkey mind.
About 1,700 years ago, Patanjali (also known as the father of yoga) summarized and compiled the teachings and practices of yoga into one big yogic Bible, "the yoga sutras". And so“Yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ”is a sutra, a thread we need to weave into our lives, so we can better understand ourselves. But you see, that monkey mind we are born with, is not meant to be tamed, we would not rather have a deer or a crocodile instead of our beloved monkey.
The monkey does what it's meant to do, its one and only job in the world, to THINK. To generate thoughts, ideas, to record moments and replay them as memories, to link things; faces to names and scents to places. It's powerful and helpful and more than often magical because you had no idea you can still recall your favourite bedtime story with all its details, and you probably didn't know you can make up that believable story to get out of a weekend work thing because no one wants to go to a work thing on a weekend. Such a saviour that little monkey, isn't he? Careful though, he can be your saviour, but also, your prisoner, your best friend sometimes, and your worst enemy other times.
The monkey knows no rest, and we often forget that we have control over the monkey and not the other way around. We are in control of our minds, they do not control us, the voices in our heads are not really who we are, they are reflections of what we see in the world, and when we let them wander with no leash, they go about, interpreting, overthinking, overanalysing, making noises, crowding up in our head, they even start turning against each other and throwing fist fights.
The yoga philosophy nudges you to believe that if we can sit to meditate and observe all the thoughts as they go about in our head and shut them, one by one, it means that we are not those thoughts, no, we are not the mind, the mind is just a tool we can use as humans. We don't have to associate ourselves with each and every thought that crosses our mind, and once we believe that and start applying it, we begin to understand how it truly works.
Each monkey is individual, made up of cognitive beliefs and thought maps that we have never tried to unravel. The way we generate a thought has a lot to do with how we were brought up, the way those thoughts sound in our head is almost the same as the way our parents often spoke to us, our teachers, childhood friends, past lovers, and maybe the whole world. Following your monkey down that rabbit hole and unravelling that secret map can be so liberating, it can help you understand things about yourself, things that you have been struggling with your whole life, like why do you always victimize yourself in a relationship? Or why are you always guilt-tripped whenever something comes up with your parents? Why do you spend so much time stressing over something instead of just getting it done? Is it your monkey protecting you from the disappointment of not doing something 100% perfectly so it tricks you into not doing anything at all? Maybe? I don't know. You go ahead and ask it.
Yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ,yoga starts when you stop and say why does this comment make me feel bad about myself? Yoga starts when you learn to give that monkey a handful of peanuts to snack on and keep him quiet while you go by and enjoy your day, keeping your door open to all thoughts and ideas with no judgement. Yoga starts when you let words walk into your head as they really are with no additional spices and flavours from your monkey mind to make them easier or harder to swallow, because in the end words are just words. Yoga starts when you no longer color code your emotions in association with certain people or places; your past emotions should not color your future experiences.
Yoga starts you realize that there are no higher walls than the ones you have built up inside your head. Yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ.