Autumn is such a lovely time of the year. I always marvel at the beautiful display that nature puts on before she decides to have a rest over the winter and watching autumn leaves fall is such a peaceful pastime. Recently I was thinking about how clever nature is to cast off that which is no longer needed and was reminded of the value in doing just that ourselves!
How often do we get stuck repeating the same old patterns and habits that we know do not really serve us anymore? These old patterns or conditionings are known as samskaras to the yogis. They are based on past experiences and if left continue to influence the way we function in this world. Perhaps you find yourself always apologising for your behaviour? Putting others needs before your own? Not taking time out for yourself, feeling that you somehow do not measure up or need to work harder, faster, to feel good about yourself??
There may be some things that really push your buttons; people who don’t appreciate you, people who think differently or treat you in a particular way. At some stage we all need to ask “is my behaviour and response helping me to grow?” If this is not the case then perhaps it is time to let some of this stuff go. Just like the deciduous trees around us it can be healthy and a great relief to just drop it!!
How can yoga help us to do that?
To begin with true yoga requires you to be fully present. This is something that develops with time and practice. You make a conscious effort to keep the mind with the practices by following the breath, counting rounds and focusing on different parts of the body as you move into postures or asanas as they are called.
By becoming fully present you begin to notice the mind and how quickly it jumps from one thing to another …how easy it is to be distracted by thoughts. Some of these thoughts are quite repetitive and they generally have no basis in truth but are based on some past experience where you felt a certain way or reacted to something. To watch without getting caught up is the secret because this allows us to detach from all the emotional baggage around the thought.
By using particular breathing practices you can balance the breath and learn to control our breathing when we are anxious and stressed by events around us or things that people say. This creates the space necessary for you to take that step back to “see” your usual reaction or response and decide consciously if this is what you want to say or do.
The practice of yoga nidra (see post from Jan 2012) allows the time and space for physical rest but also offers the opportunity for the samskaras to become apparent and be released. Particularly when the teacher is using opposites and visualisations as these may invoke feelings and memories that you learn to watch in a relaxed and detached state and they begin to lose their power in your waking state. In yoga nidra you set an intention for your life. A short positive statement about something you are working toward (a sankalpa) when you are in the deeply relaxed state that yoga nidra brings about can guide your actions and thoughts in your waking state.
Letting go is not instantaneous but the benefits of practising the art of “just dropping it” are so worthwhile. You are no longer reacting to things but choosing how you wish to respond. It does not matter how many times you need to practise..it is the fact that you do which will make the difference. So take some inspiration from the deciduous trees and stock up your yoga toolbox..it will change your life.
A perfect analogy for this time of year!