For yoga one does not eat too much or too little, and one does not sleep too much or too little.
With moderation in food and diversion, living and acting, sleep and wakefulness, yoga rids one of all sorrows.
These verses give us a new way to look at sameness, dispassion, or equality, with moderation holding the fort this time.
Moderation is not only meant to be applied overall, but to the small pieces of the overall as well. For instance, you can eat too much of the time, or you can eat too much food at one time; you can play too much of the time, or you can overexert yourself when playing—you can take exercise in a moderate fashion, or you can ‘go for the burn’ and force yourself to go the extra mile. So there is an overall moderation, and a real-time moderation.
Moderation is a relative thing. For instance, one person’s body may be naturally inclined to eat three meals a day. Someone else’s body may need to eat smaller meals more often, and another may be content with one meal a day. All bodies are different. When it comes to food, sleep and activity, you will have to get to know your body so you can practice moderation without wasting time and effort trying to train it to do something that is unnatural for it, and therefore not helpful.
Most commentaries dwell on regulating and controlling all these aspects of life. But one cannot realistically determine what is too much and what is too little without first knowing one’s own limits and proclivities, and the nature of one’s own body. Subscribing to someone else’s idea of how much to eat, how much to sleep, how much to work, and how much to play, can be useful if your physical attributes match those of the one telling you what to do. Otherwise, you will fail because your body will not tolerate it. You can always try to retrain your body. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. It all depends on what kind of body you are working with.
So what are you to do? You must resort to the fourth Niyama, svadhyaya: self-study. You must pay attention to yourself and your body, and notice what’s going on with your food, sleep and activities. This is the first step, before you can do anything about it, and it will require self-honesty.
If you think moderation is difficult, self-honesty is even more difficult. Aside from having and raising children, it is probably the most difficult thing you will ever do. You will be using your thinking mind, and at the core of the mind is an ‘ego’ that has an agenda of its own. So you will have to be willing to take some punches, accept some points, and then sort it all out.
You might be better off listening to your body, but then here comes the mind and all the things the senses have supplied it with, not to mention the senses themselves. Well, you’ll have to be able to look them in the eye, pay attention, get into neutral gear and choose what you are going to do based on what is best for your Yoga. You will make mistakes. Let that be OK, and just keep going with your self-inspection until you work out your own moderations.
Neither gluttony nor fasting is appropriate for Yoga. But moderation is not just about food, it is about everything, all aspects of your life. By moderating them you will best serve yourself as the ‘instrument’ of your own success in Yoga.
Then, with the mind subdued, the yogi remains absorbed in his practice. Thus pleasantly engaged, he becomes desireless and free from longing, and finds happiness.
Just as a lamp does not flicker in a windless place, the yogi’s attention remains steady in the performance of his Yoga.
Here the word for ‘attention’ is chitta, mind-stuff, the subtle energy of consciousness that constitutes the mind as a whole. You are not trying to figure out how to get anything, so the mind becomes inactive, not moving around, subdued—the chitta is still, and you are able to become absorbed in yoga. Through it, you easily become desireless and free from longing because you are fulfilled by yoga (union).
We all have our little micro-moments of this, and we chase it by trying to live in the moment so we won’t miss it, should it come around again. But if you know yoga, you will have experienced that by its practice, you can have this fulfillment whenever you want. You have but to design your life to allow for it.
Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),