(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 29 December 2012, CapeTown, South Africa, Ratha Yatra Lecture)
The real purpose of these yoga exercises, in traditional vedic culture, was to get some control over the body and then some control over the mind. The primary aim of these yoga asanas is mind control because the mind is very difficult to control. The mind is very restless and is like a little boat on the waves and the waves tend to take away the mind; there is wind and on some days, there is a storm. I mean, at the Cape, we know very well what it is like!
You know, this is the Cape of Good Hope! This name was given by sailors who were hoping that the currents and waves will not be too strong so that their tiny little ships would not be blown away or thrown by waves in deep waters. So things like that, therefore Cape of Good Hope!
The mind is like a tiny ship which is easily blown away by so many things and we don’t even have it in our language to describe it, “Oh, I was totally blown out! My mind just blew me away.” So, sometimes in metaphor, we use this kind of language because the mind is so easily controlled by the material energy. That is why people in traditional times were practicing these exercises to control the mind but it is very difficult.
You know, I will confess to you! I also bought a yoga mat; yes I did! Not because of any high ideals but because I was spending too much time behind the computer. I also felt like I needed to do something for my back. They say that you have to strengthen the belly muscles and there are three levels of muscles that you have to work on. And I had my yoga mat and I lifted my legs and pulled one up and the other one and so on. Breathe in, breathe out! I did it all for three days! After three days, I never looked at the yoga mat again. But, you know, it is so austere. Some people who are good at it, like it. People who are naturally elastic, they love to bend over.