I have a sketch of my daughter asleep. It is 1993. I was reading a book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and learning to draw. The author, Betty Edwards, described a state of mind that occurs when a person is fully present and totally absorbed in whatever they are doing. While I was drawing my daughter, I lost track of time. When I finished and became aware again of my surroundings, I was calm and full of energy at the same time. According to the yoga sutras this state of mind–total absorption–is called “samadhi.”

Most of us have experienced samadhi at one time or another. The first chapter of the yoga sutras describes this state, the obstacles to achieving it and various ways to reach it. According to the teachings of Patanjali, we practice yoga to still the vacillations of our minds so that we can become one with our true-self. To do this we must work from the outside in, starting with our behaviors, our physical bodies and breath, then turning inward to our minds.

On the “mat,” we practice quieting our minds first by reducing harmful thoughts and increasing helpful thoughts. We add focus and concentration, paying attention to our bodies and our breath.