Yoga can change your life. From encouraging discipline to developing mindfulness, improving physical strength to mental stability and more, yoga is a transformative journey. Whether you’re a regular practitioner, a yoga teacher or someone who is looking to become a yoga teacher, the impact and experience will cause a wonderful shift within you. Gradually, the focus goes from physical to subtle, from the mind to the Prana. When Prana flows freely through the Nadis (energy channels), the mind and body are energized, invigorated and healthy.
Unearthing the real you
Many practice yoga for common reasons such as reducing stress, weight loss, mental strength and stability, etc. However, yoga goes beyond these visible aspects to encourage introspection, growth, mindfulness and self-discovery. The ability to unearth the real you takes time for regular practitioners, while for those in a yoga teacher training course, it may happen within a period of weeks.
There is no set rulebook or guidelines to discovering yourself, on or off the mat. In a yoga class or during a yoga teacher training, you often start with learning asanas and breathing techniques. This teaches you the real meaning of Patanjali’s Sutra ‘Sthiram Sukam Asanam’, which means to be steady and comfortable in any position, by willing yourself to hold a yoga posture that may seem easy at first. This journey on the mat allows you to discover willpower you probably didn’t know you had and block out distractions that are normally the cause of procrastination. Gradually, this leads to an actual understanding of ‘Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha’, a Sutra which means ‘Yoga is controlling the modulations of the mind’.
As you progress, you peel back layers to unearth your true consciousness and the real you. You let go of habits that don’t serve you, making way for new, positive ones. You become more aware, and practicing yoga with awareness is a very different experience that causes a deep transformation. Very often the conscious mind, which is the ego, engages the mind in thoughts and events that already exist. So even when doing a posture, the mind is on the pre-stored concepts such as ‘you are not good enough’, ‘you do not have enough flexibility’, etc. You tend to get irritated and discouraged. On the outside you might be doing the yoga asana perfectly, but on the inside you’re constantly in an emotional battle. Practicing with awareness, allows you to actively break away from the conscious mind and let go of these unwanted thoughts.
The power of breath
In your journey of yoga for self-discovery, you will realize the power of your breath. Through Pranayama you will learn to control the breath, breathe fast or slow, shallow or deep. When holding the Headstand or the Wheel Pose (or any posture for that matter), taking slow, deep breaths will give you the strength to stay steady and comfortable. In a balancing posture like Warrior 3 or the Scorpion Pose, you’ll realize how powerful the breath is in helping you focus.
Moreover, laying down in Savasana, the Corpse Pose at the end of a session, practicing Yoga Nidra or meditation, allows you to use your breath to restore and relax. Awareness of sensations within the body, thoughts and emotions, and sensory perceptions of external sounds is heightened. All of this while focusing on the breath. When you do this regularly on the mat, your breath awareness improves. You can harness the power of your breath to calm down in a stressful situation, to breathe deeply while working or to sit up straight to enable healthy breathing. By breathing slowly and deeply, the nervous system also relaxes, allowing you to make better decisions and respond rather than react.
Suppressing emotions, desires and thoughts is common for many. We avoid confrontations with ourselves and others. We tend to give in to fears or are scared of the outcome so choose not to pursue a desire. The journey of yoga for self-discovery encourages you to not only confront these emotions and fears, but gives you the confidence to pursue what you desire without hesitation. You develop the confidence to confront, introspect and overcome leading to growth and transformation.
By doing practices that tap into the energy channels located in the subtle body (known as Chakras), you can release these blockages. For example, doing heart-opening postures such as the Camel Pose or Wheel Pose activates the Anahata Chakra or the Heart Center, allowing you to release emotions. This empowers emotional health, patience, trust and faith. Activating the Manipura Chakra or the Solar Plexus with postures like Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) or techniques like Kapal Bhati (Frontal Lobe Cleansing) ignites your true passion and desires. Vishuddi Chakra (Throat Center) practices such as Sarvangasana or the Shoulder Stand encourage the ability to communicate clearly, allowing you to address what you want.
Yoga Nidra is a powerful technique that works strongly on the subconscious mind. Regular practice has the power to release suppressed thoughts and emotions, overwrite perceptions and overcome fears. By slowly and gradually releasing these blockages, you can allow for immense individual growth and transformation.
Patience, perseverance and dedication
By showing up regularly for your class you are not only being patient with yourself and your journey, but you are also staying dedicated to your teacher. Even if your hamstrings, arms or shoulders are aching, showing up is perseverance and dedication. If there are postures you are not a fan of, do them. Don’t avoid them. Ask yourself why you are not a fan of it? By doing the posture, what can you learn? You will begin to discover your true strength and your practice becomes a sacred time for you. This may lead you to discover more about yourself and your desires. This being said, if you need a break or need to rest in the middle of a class, do not hesitate to go into the Child’s Pose or Corpse Pose. This is also a form of you making a choice and a decision by listening to your mind and body.
Leaving you with a transformative thought…
Every individual is made up of five sheaths or layers, called the Pancha Koshas, the first one being the physical layer called Annamaya. As you spend more time in yoga practices, you gradually move through the different sheaths. You move onto the Pranayama and Manomaya Kosha, the mental body to the subtler ones, that are more evolved in consciousness, such as the Vijnanamaya Kosha (the buddhi or the intellect). You learn to distinguish between the real and unreal. The conscious, ego-mind that was wrapped in experiences from the external world moves close to the blissful body, known as the Anandmaya Kosha, where the real you exists.
It starts with simple practices on the mat. Being regular and dedicated will allow you to start noticing the small changes. Slowly, you’ll learn more about yoga and discover yourself in a deeper way. You get closer to your actual consciousness, and your body and mind is more receptive to pranic intelligence. You learn to let go, overcome fears and obstacles, inhibitions and weakness. Gradually, the real you will surface, and your true ability and potential will shine through.