When we seek transformation or change, we need good grounding, and the grounding steps we take also requires the capacity to move forward. While many consider yoga “just exercise” or “just stretching”, the philosophy underpinning the ‘exercise’ and ‘stretching’ is key – otherwise, it really isn’t ‘yoga’ as such, it is really is just exercise and just stretching.
There are quite a number of helpful philosophical resources in yoga that helps us to move forward in our plans for transformation. All of them require reflection, so all of them require courage on our part.
There is nothing harder than looking within ourselves and discovering things we never knew while peeling the layers. So while we remain open in hearts and minds, we also should be gentle with ourselves. Just so long as we move forward.
Self-reflection, or ‘Svadhyaya’ is one of of the ‘Niyamas’ in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (the second rung of the eight steps of yoga – “Ashtanga Yoga”). Self-reflection (self-study) is not something most of us find easy. Often, we tend to blame others when something goes wrong, and we validate that through our community. Being part of our support system, it is rare when our friends or family may disagree with us (even if they do). And when they do, do we really listen to them? Could we really be in the wrong?
Yes, sometimes we are justified in our actions, and all our emotions are valid. However, reacting in ways that don’t serve us, and allowing emotions that don’t serve us to grip on to us will hinder, rather than improve, our transformation.
Svadhyaya helps us to see our true divine nature through contemplation of our journey in life, and also through meditation. Instead of thinking of events as ‘crises’, we can instead flip it around and view them as opportunities to learn.
In that sense, it can never be ‘bad’, there is always something we can learn. When we examine our actions (or reactions), we can look into our conscious and unconscious motives, thoughts, and desires with clarity.
In addition, Svadhyaya involves the study of sacred yogic texts as a guide to our subconscious. If you prefer, you can also studying your own religious texts, or even talks or texts from those who inspire you. So long as the studies you make helps you see who you are in the moment, as well as see beyond your current state something greater.
Making a change is not an easy. Reflection, contemplation, and journaling are tools you can use for self-reflection. What is revealed may not be easy to swallow, but you are strong enough to take the next steps. One way, as with external ‘problems’, is to make a list of your own internal struggles and the possible solutions you think may serve you in the long run.
When it comes to change within ourselves (from refraining from too much caffein to managing anger), it requires discipline. Many people also tend to forget that yoga is a discipline.
Within yoga, under the Niyamas – together with Svadhyaya – is “Tapas”. Although it is loosely translated as ‘discipline’, it really is the result of disciplined practice. Tapas means more – the heat arising from consistent disciplined practice.
This “heat” or “fire” is akin to willpower. And when it comes to transformation, we need that willpower to keep to the path. Of course, there will be good days and there will be worse days, but what’s important is when we ‘fall off the bandwagon’, we get back on.
This is where tapas comes into play. The ‘fire’ of tapas will illuminate and ‘burn up’ the conflicts and ‘impurities’ of our mental and physical state.
The fire of tapas is a source of spiritual energy, transforming and purifying us, helping us to have conscious awareness, control over our impulses and also our less skilful behaviour.
Faith and courage.
With all these tools under our belt, have faith and courage – especially in yourself. Sometimes, it is our own limiting beliefs that stops us from moving forward.
So with some self-study and reflection, some willpower to keep to the path, have faith and courage in yourself. Pick yourself up when you stray from the path. Be gentle, but get back to the path as soon as you can.
One setback, or even a few setbacks, doesn’t mean you have failed. In fact, each time you get back to your path of transformation may help you be stronger in the long run, and may help you adhere to your path later on in your journey.
Let me know if I can help you further. I offer 1:1 Yoga Mentoring if this may seem a good fit for your (mid)life awakening.
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