Updated: Mar 10, 2020
YOGA: the mind, body, and soul connection
by, Jessica Mariglio
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
- Viktor Frankl
At its core, beyond the physical postures and the trappings of studios and classes, the practice of yoga is a psychological practice of self-study. It is about coming back into contact with what presently is as opposed to what we wish would be present. In many ways, yoga is about understanding our nature-- observing the fluctuations of the mind and emotions without becoming identified with them. It is a practice that involves surveying and re-establishing the landscape of the mind. It is, as Dr. Chris Chapple writes, “the process of taking us back home to our unobscured true nature.”
As humans, we are blessed with the capacity for meta-cognition, which is the ability to witness the process of the mind as it unfolds. It is from this witness standpoint that finds the key to liberation from identifying with the waves of the mind. When we become witness to the mind, rather than identify with it, we can note the feelings, emotions, sensations, and patterns that arise in every moment and choose our response accordingly. In this way, we can establish a sacred pause of awareness in between stimulus and response. This is why, whether in the therapy room or on the yoga mat, we are frequently called to bring our awareness to what is arising in the here and now. This is the practice of mindfulness-- returning awareness to the present moment as it is.
How many of us can relate? When we experience depression, we may say to ourselves “I am depressed.” When we experience anger, we commonly tell others “I am angry.” Our identification with our emotions helps us express what we are feeling, however more often than not, we become swept away into the emotion-- it becomes the totality of our experience rather than a temporary and fleeting experience.
Since the present moment might be uncomfortable or less than desirable at times, the mind will begin to create distractions to pull us away from awareness. According to the yoga sutras, these are hindrances or obstacles that affect our ability to remain a witness of the mind, and instead cause us to become identified without emotions. It may become tempting to strive for perfection in an attempt to conquer these hindrances, however, it is important to note that these are natural human tendencies that cannot become completely eradicated. After all, it is not the presence of distraction itself that is our problem, but rather our relationship to it that causes suffering. As we begin to cultivate a mindful life, we learn to greet the arrival of the obstacles without becoming them. The practice of yoga helps us learn to maintain balance when difficulties inevitably arise, granting a bit more ease as we walk the mindfulpath.
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