If you’re like me, yoga crept into your life surreptitiously. Yet the impact has been profound. With an old knee injury and my thirties creeping up, I unknowingly turned a corner and left aerobics and spinning behind. Yes, the universe and my “knee karma” guided me gently, yet firmly, away from years of body-perfect pursuits, towards the yoga studio.
There I found the awareness and courage I needed to change the negative aspects of my life. Nine years later, I’m changed for the better and finally learning to live my passions – teaching yoga and writing.
Oddly perhaps, passion from the root Latin word “passio” actually means “to suffer”. We learn however that it’s only when our passions are unfulfilled and our emotions unbalanced, that we create our own dramatic and exhausting suffering. To break this cycle we first have to recognise that in this “situational suffering” we’re coming from a place of ego and acting from the perspective of fear and not trusting our essential wholeness.
The key yogic premise, Patanjali’s yoga sutra Yogas Citta-Vrtti Nirodhah, beautifully explains how a daily yoga practice enables us to notice or recognise our true, complete self. The Sanskrit translates: “When you stop identifying with your thoughts, (the fluctuations of the mind), then there is yoga.” It describes, logically and accurately, the process of unfolding awareness, which inevitably leads, (for anyone who practices yoga consistently), to self-actualisation.
Yoga asanas direct our prana (life force) upwards to the ajna (third eye) and sahasrara (crown) chakras to perfectly prepare us for meditation. This is when we learn to stop identifying with our “monkey” minds, i.e. the ego. Non-attachment to thought begins with simply being able to observe (without judgement) the mind and its constant fluctuations. Our thoughts aren’t permanent, real or necessarily based on truth either – rather, they’re subjective.
By recognising this, we open up space to become aware of the blissful, peaceful state of simply being. This state of being liberates us. The moment we let go of all our heavy expectations of ourselves, the chance of actualising our dreams and passions becomes truly possible, perhaps for the very first time. In fact, it becomes likely. Why? Think of a balancing asana such as Natarajasana or Lord of the Dance Pose. In the asana, the instant we let go of our fear of falling over and focus only on our breath, we balance! Suddenly we are a light, lithe dancer…
This holds true for all our strivings, every day. The world tells us to look outward to define ourselves – to careers, relationships and material success. When we attach to this, we feel we never do, have, or achieve enough. We focus on perfecting and correcting ourselves in all the wrong ways. Wasting energy and time, we scatter our attention, spread ourselves too thin, squash our inner voice and childhood dreams – and then berate ourselves or others when we fail. Afterwards, we review our failures again, through the mind (which takes itself rather seriously indeed). Living like this can drain us of the vitality and clarity of purpose needed to make changes towards self actualising, in a non-pressured, fulfilling and organic way.
When we persevere with yoga, it becomes habit to simply notice our moods, our daily hankerings, the little voices in our head and then to laugh them off. With determined calm, we start to habitually value the profound importance of simply being, in every moment of every day.
Suddenly, our priorities rearrange themselves like we’re shuffling a deck of cards and the universe seems to roll the dice in our favour too.
Our path is never random. In the beginning, all this “noticing” may unsettle us, shake things up a bit – as the intellect and ego wrangle with the soul. However, this holds the key to fulfilment. Thankfully, yoga heightens our
awareness, so we recognise the signposts along the way and are galvanised into action, to follow them.
By Mandy Walker