This week I have been teaching a theme of svadhyaya, or the 4th Niyama, which translates to self study. Niyamas are internal practices which guide us on our Inward Journey. I use the asana practice to learn about and study myself and guide students to do the same. The habits that we observe ourselves doing on our mats we do throughout the rest of our lives as well. These habits, such as holding tension in mind or body, or perfecting, or competing, or pushing, or being lazy, become clear to us in our yoga practice since the practice is this simple breathe + movement situation in which the environment is calm and the mind is focused.
I have caught myself and other yogis pushing our bodies into shapes that our bodies are not yet ready for, or simply that aren’t right for us. And this is when I realized that we are trying to make the body exist within our mind’s image. The reality is this: our mind exists within our body, not our body within our mind. With this knowledge, we begin to see how silly it is to try to fit our bodies into a prescribed shape, a specific pose.
Then our job becomes one of santosha, or the practice of contentment, the second niyama. To be fine with where you are at in this moment. Once we let go of our expectations for ourselves (and others) we just got rid of so many reasons to feel disappointed or discontent. It is then, that this practice of accepting where we are at in this moment, becomes a practice of ahimsa, nonviolence and compassion.
As we break free of these “bad” habits on our mats, in that safe and sacred space, the seed is planted, and better habits grow and branch out into the rest of our lives.
Where are you moving your practice from? Where are you living your life from? The mind and the external image of how you think you should be doing it? Or from your heart’s center, which houses the divine and infinite wisdom? BKS Iyengar asks us to feel the poses from the inside out, rather than using the mind to do the pose from the outside in. Next time you are on your mat bring the hands to Añjali Mudra, or in a situation off the mat, take just a brief second to check in to reflect: where are you moving from?