Yoga in the West has become synonymous with flashy yoga clothes, competitive style classes, and instagram photos of people twisting their bodies into various shapes while smiling from ear to ear. While there is nothing wrong with any of these, they do gloss over the root of yoga which is you.
Focusing solely on the physical aspect of the practice without addressing the deeper psychological layer is a disservice. There is no doubt that one will see and feel the physical transformations in their body once a regular yoga practice is a part of their life. What can be felt from the inside out and carried into their lives daily is the opportunity to dig deeper in the thought patterns that cause us to repeat a loop which keeps us in a state of discontentment and distress.
Peeling Back the Layers
In Sanskrit the word granthi refers to the knots of the mind and body. When we are not able to be present in our minds and bodies, we are not able to be present in life. We will continue to either cling to pleasure and comfort or avoid challenge and change. The longer I practice yoga, the slower I want to move in the asanas so that I can process all that comes up. To be able to hold a posture longer, not only does the body need to be physically able, but the mind must also be conditioned to be able to focus and sit with what may arise.
A consistent yoga practice will condition both the mind and body, and allow the individual to focus on what they really need to bring in or let go of in their lives to feel content. With a bombardment of chatter around us day in and day out it can be quite a challenge to tune in and figure this out. Personally, I find that ‘staying on track’ can be isolating if I let it be, but then I remember that part to of what makes me feel content and happy is feeling connected to others. So instead of hiding out at home because I don’t want to go to a bar or some social event, I will call a friend, get to a yoga class, or write a note to someone I’ve had on my mind.
Letting Go of Old Versions of Yourself
Patterns of the mind can be deeply rooted and be expressed as a habit, coping mechanism, or survival strategy that has worked for a part of your life. Experiencing a loss can lead to feeling a lost sense of self. As you look back through the chapters of your life, I am sure you can pinpoint a few versions of yourself that no longer exist. Maybe it had to do with the way you dressed, the job you had, or the people you hung out with. Certain versions are easier to let go of than others. For example, when you are in a serious relationship with someone and spend a lot of time with them, live together, build a life together and then you break up - parts of that life that you loved will continue to linger in your mind. Clinging to this old version of yourself – even if seen as a great one – will only cause your suffering to continue.
Not being with life as it is, attachment to stories about ourselves, fear of letting go, and the need to be ‘someone’ keep us from being free to be completely ourselves and present in the life that we have.
On and Off of the Mat
For the past few months I have been speaking to the importance of savasana in my classes more and more especially when I can sense students want to dart out of the room before this final resting posture. Since lying still and breathing can often be one of the hardest things to do, especially with a mind full of chatter. What I offer to students, is to think of the time as conditioning their internal peace, tuning into the mind, heartbeat, breath and body and observing what physical, energetic or emotional sensations may be lingering or rising to the surface after practice.
Just as we do the work on the mat to condition our minds and bodies, we must also be able to tap into the sense of peace we feel in savasana when we are off of the mat and need it most. If you are looking for a way to explore yoga, I would love to see you in a class or have you join me on a retreat. Please reach out with where you are on your journey in yoga and life.