We come to our yoga mats for many reasons. We love the physical benefits—the balance, strength and flexibility it creates—not just in our bodies, but in our lives. It’s no wonder yoga is one of this country’s fastest growing activities. But like many things in life, we are eventually inspired to look for deeper meaning in our yoga practices. The question becomes not “why?” but “what is this for?” What is yoga for? What is this job for? What is this for?
The question “why?” spins you off in a number of unanswerable directions. It is a question that keeps the ego busy…and content. Asking, “What is this for?” takes you to “a place” in mind where one of two answers is always available: to separate or join. Your ego does not want you to know this truth! Watch the resistance and judgment that comes up when you ask, “What is this for?”
Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, knew this well. His work is a foundation for my recent book, The Yoga Mind, which helps you identify and choose against self-sabotaging thoughts and actions that separate. You believe that separating thoughts (and the actions they generate) are helpful, but they constantly work against you. Wouldn’t it be great to change this frustrating cycle?
Because “yoga” means “to join, or yoke together,” then your “yoga” is to look to your mind and notice if your thoughts, regardless of the situation, are joining or separating in nature. Separating thoughts will always come in some form of perceived loss, fear, difference, judgment or attack. Joining thoughts will always be kind, helpful and see past differences to a shared solution. Again, the ego will resist this because it senses its dissolution and loss of “power.” The ego thrives on problems; the true Self helps you dissolve them. The inner teacher of fear will hold you hostage to the situation, while the inner teacher of love (that joins) will show a better way and keep you open to solutions that really work.
In a yoga class, we put ourselves in awkward situations to practice maintaining inner peace and calm in spite of the demands of the pose or situation. One of my favorite translations of the word “asana” is “situation.” Asana is the physical practice of yoga. It is an effective place to practice because if you can reframe your mind to join in a state of nonjudgmental kindness toward yourself (and others), then you are one step closer to accomplishing that in your daily life.
Do you see certain daily tasks as obstacles to peace? Do you approach your daily duties begrudgingly as chores that must be accomplished to obtain a certain outcome or future reward? If so, you are perfectly normal. But what if you were to ask, “What is this for? What is my yoga here and now?” Are you promoting your ego-self though separating thoughts of anxiety, frustration and fear, or are you using the current situation as a tool to show you another perspective? You got yourself into the situation. Now its your yoga to let it show you a peaceful inner solution instead of deepening a frustrating inner problem. Choose an inner teacher that joins and watch the situation correct itself!
As you go through your day today, notice tasks that you regard as a chore and ask, “What is this for?” The ego will use the situation to uphold your separate sense of self. It will tell you that you are better than this. It will have you point your finger and blame. The ego’s agenda is to uphold your sense of separate self-importance at all cost.
The key to unwinding this destructive pattern and accessing an ongoing state of calm inner guidance known as true Self is to notice your separating thoughts without judgment. This practice automatically opens the door to a better way. Pay attention to how this change in thinking changes your life experience. Look for the higher purpose of yoga as a tool that joins…both on and off your mat.
If any part of this article rings true for you, The Yoga Mind will teach you to carefully identify and correct the thoughts that work against you and find a gentle and wise path that allows you to experience your own healed mind—your true Self!