“I’m just stubborn,” “I’ll never be able to touch my toes,” “I hate people like that”… we all tend to form ideas about ourselves and then hold on these ideas as though they were set in stone. We can become convinced that our bodies will never change. We might feel that the emotional patterns we experience internally and in our relationships will never change. We can feel stuck with the skills we have, as though we could never develop new abilities. However, as we begin to observe the amazing changes that occur through the yoga practice, we begin to see that change is indeed possible. A sense of optimism is born. Postures that once seemed impossible begin to look not only possible, but enjoyable! The riches and rewards brought by the yoga practice not only demonstrate that change is possible, but that change can bring joy and mystery and celebration into our lives.
With dedicated practice, our bodies can become stronger, more flexible, and more relaxed. We may also find that our ability to concentrate and remain focused is strengthened – both during yoga and otherwise. Even our emotions will likely become more stable; we’ll experience fewer outbursts and a natural, spontaneous outpouring of compassion for others.
We experience physical changes, mental changes, and emotional changes. Like taking off your work clothes and changing into your favorite weekend outfit, these changes that occur through yoga can feel more coming back home to ourselves – rather that changing into “something new.”
In fact, as we begin to observe all these different changes, we begin to perceive not only those aspects of ourselves that are capable of changing – but also that deeper part of ourselves that is beyond change. This discernment is one of the fundamental goals of the yoga practice. Increasingly, we identify with the stillness inside ourselves – rather than identifying with our bodies, our thoughts, or our emotions.
Recognizing this deeper Self, which does not experience the constant volatility of our minds and bodies, begins to connect us to the world around us in a new way. We see that all people and beings also have this deep well of stillness – even if they don’t always see it themselves. This is the first step toward entering a state of Yoga – a state in which the yogi perceives himself or herself to be in union with the universe, rather than as a separate entity within the universe.
I am not this body. I have a body, but this body is not who I am.
I am not these thoughts. I have thoughts, but these thoughts are not who I am.
I am not these feelings. I have feelings, but these feelings are not who I am.
~ yogic mantra
Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.
Then, the seer dwells in his own true splendour.
At other times, the seer identifies with the fluctuating consciousness.
(Sutras I.2, I.3, I.4 Translation by BKS Iyengar)
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