Yoga and Self-Mastery
I'm sure you've heard at least once that Yoga is a pathway to self-knowledge.
How are these two things connected? How can a bunch of difficult poses help me get to know myself better? How can this help me live a happier life?
A long time ago, back in Brazil, when I started to practice I asked myself the same questions. It seems like two different things and after the classes, I couldn't make out the relationship between them.
I practiced in different studios which gave me the opportunity to learn from a variety of teachers. Some of them started to make the bridge between these two concepts. I considered myself lucky to be drawn to these teachers.
From Gross to Subtle
The system of Yoga works from gross to subtle aspects of our being. The grossest aspect of ourselves, is the physical body, is quite obvious, isn't it?
How about the other aspects? How about your energy and your mind? Memory and ego? And going deeper there is something that may you call Soul, Self, or inner God. This is the subtle aspect.
In this article, I will keep it simple. Let's focus on the BODY, BREATH and the MIND.
The asanas (poses) work directly with the body. By doing the poses and paying attention to it you are increasing your body awareness, feeling different muscles, new parts and sensations. If you are present enough, you have the opportunity to explore all the body elements in a different way. "Oh, I didn't realise how tight my hips are" and maybe "My upper back is weak".
By having a competent instructor guiding you through the practice, you will notice how your mind behaves while you perform the poses. You will become aware of the likes and dislikes during that time. "This shape is easy to do and feels good" and maybe "This is pretty tough, I'm not sure if I'm able to do it".
During the poses you are also enhancing the breath. One of the goals of asanas is to help you connect deeply with your breathing process. At the end of the physical poses, when you sit to just focus on your breathing, you are moving towards a subtle aspect of your being.
The breath, besides being the primary source of energy, is the bridge between body and mind. It is the gap that links these two aspects. By using the breath in different rhythms, and adding pauses with and without air, you are directly impacting the mind and preparing for meditation. (I could do a whole book just talking about the power of breath! I'll do another post soon!)
The Mind and Self Awareness
Our mind is the place that every action comes from, being aware or not, this is what is happening right now. While you read this article the mind is recognising words, accessing the meaning, putting things together and creating the knowledge in your head.
Sometimes we are aware of the things that we are doing and sometimes we are not. Actually researchers have shown that most of our actions in life come from our unconscious mind. What does it mean?
The unconscious mind is the part of the mind that is in the dark. We don't knowingly access it that often. It is what leads us most of the time, our addictions and reactions to life. The classic example, you want to lose weight so you promise yourself that you won't eat chocolate during weekdays, and suddenly after lunch, you caught yourself with some chocolate in your mouth that you "don't know where it came from".
By working with mediation you create the space to observe the mind, to get to know how your mind works, what are the patterns that are constantly there, what are the habits that are making your routine. When you can access your unconscious mind and bring awareness to this part of the mind you have the option of choice. To choose how to act, rather than react to life.
I have a tendency to get irritated very easily when things don't go my way. I'm not the type of person who gets sad and closes down. I express myself through words and strong energy. This is my automatic reaction. Through the practice of meditation, I've learnt how to recognise this reaction and transform it into something else. I breathe. I acknowledge my feelings and I respond to the situation in a different way! Sometimes I got irritated and lost my temper but after I recognised very quickly that I wasn't able to control myself.
From Awareness to Self Mastery
Have you ever asked yourself: Why do you do things the way you do? In which aspects of your life you are reacting more, rather than acting? Where you should invite more awareness to lead?
Please don't underestimate the power of these questions? Don't answer automatically as well. Take your time and let's do a quick exercise.
Pause for a moment and remember when was the last time that you got pissed off, could be today, maybe yesterday. Now think why this happened? What was the reason you lost your temper? Now look back and notice other moments in the past that you were pissed off.
Can you see any pattern there? Any similar situations?
Now close your eyes and take three long breaths in and out.
I found this process of self-inquiry very helpful. Understanding your mind is understanding yourself, so you have the opportunity to make better choices in life that will support your happiness.
You will notice how amazing life can be once you start to act rather than react to life. You become more aware of your emotions and actions. Awareness leads to better choices and happy life.
Become a master of yourself and inspire the other ones to do the same as well. It will lead to a much happier life, trust me.
Hari Om Tat Sat