Have you ever wondered why Yoga is so popular in the West?
Is it because it makes us feel so good?
Is it because it frees us from our inner physical and mental limitations?
Is it because it gives us wings and courage to stand and move forward when life is not easy? Yes definitively.
The Yoga’s Sages went even further to teach us how to harness our emotions and master our minds in a simple yet powerful 3-step approach. Step 1 is Awareness, Step 2 is Compassionate Acceptance and Step 3 is Empowerment with Action. You will learn how to harness your mind and tap into your inner powers.
This morning, I took a great Yoga class taught by my friend Meagan McCrary at Equinox, which reminded me of this. During savasana, the final relaxation, I felt a deep sense of inner freedom and expansiveness that strengthened my trust in life’s infinite possibilities and abundance. I noticed how much lighter, brighter and uplifted, we all stepped out of the Yoga room.
Yoga is like an iceberg– We only see the tip of its depth and benefits at first. As we immerse ourselves deeper and deeper into our regular Yoga practice including asanas, breathing and meditation, we become more present and aware of our inner monkey’ s mind. That never ending inner flow of thoughts and judgements we pass on ourselves and others.
AWARENESS is the first and most important step of getting to know who we are truly and how we are misperceiving ourselves.
A recent Harvard University Psychology clinical study concluded that out of our average 5,000 thoughts in any given day, 4, 500 were negative comments towards ourselves. Western psychology and Ancient Yoga psychology converge on the idea that we repeat over and over the same two or three negative refrains day in day out , for example: “nobody loves me”, “ the world sucks”, “ I am not good, beautiful, thin, intelligent, qualified,…enough” “ I will never make it”, I do not deserve to ,,,,”. Does it sound familiar?
Cultivating awareness is no different than turning our attention inward, listening to our inner dialogue and physical sensations and “being present here and now”. Taking mental notes while witnessing our inner emotions & thoughts. We can practice this anytime and anywhere throughout the day, on and off the mat.
COMPASSIONATE ACCEPTANCE is the second step. This constitutes the essential ingredient in our life recipe for happiness and fulfillment. We can define it as the capacity to see who we are in an objective non-judgement way with a tablespoon full of acceptance & compassion. We embrace all of that we are, the “good and the bad” inner tendencies, emotions and thoughts. We do not cut out the darker seeds within us. Instead, we face our inner demons and we explore the primary deeper roots of our discontentments and frustrations. Courage and Self love is the cooking fire of this inner alchemy.
This inner process can be revealed in mindfulness meditation– a simple state of full expanded and relaxed awareness a few minutes a day in silence.
EMPOWERMENT WITH ACTION is the third and last step.
Now that we have assessed our mental/emotional mood coloring, it is time to tap into our inner strength with a determined will to extract ourselves from our negative patterns, and apply the amazing Yoga wisdom, tools & techniques.
Know & define very clearly what you want to manifest in the world and who you want to be then empower yourself. Tangible changes start within. Empowerment requires two complementary approaches:
1- To replace our current negative emotion with its positive opposite every time we are caught again in the negative flow of our emotions, for example: depressed turns into hopeful, pessimistic turns into optimistic, limited & incapable becomes free and capable.
2- Then to take the simplest yet most powerful action that will have the greatest impact in your life.
- *If you feel agitated, fluttered & stressed and need inner calm, pause and breathe slowly in and out through both nostrils for at least 1 minute with the yogic Ujjjai Breathing. Follow your breath up the spine on the inhale and down the spine on the exhale.
- * If you feel down, sad, low energy or depressed, do the Alternate Nostril or Nadhi Shodhana Breathing.
Round 1: Bend the right elbow & start inhaling in the left nostril blocking the right nostril with your right hand thumb then exhale in the right nostril blocking the left nostril with your right hand ring and pinky fingers.
Round 2: Inhale in your right nostril blocking the left nostril then exhale in the opposite nostril on the left blocking the right nostril. It is very simple, each time you need to exhale, you switch nostrils. Do at least 6 to 10 rounds to bring inner balance in your brain and your mind.
- * If you want to be in optimal health and look amazing, sleep 8 hours a night ideally between 10pm and 6 am in synchronicity with nature’s cycles. The secret for going to bed earlier is to retire 15 minutes earlier each week.
Ask yourself – what shall I do and how shall I take this action, that will empower me?
Mastery of our mind and emotions is not easy as Indian Luminary Paramahansa Yogananda said:
“You may control a mad elephant;
You may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger;
Ride the lion and play with the cobra;
By alchemy you may learn your livelihood;
You may wander through the universe incognito;
Make vassals of the gods; be ever youthful;
You may walk in water and live in fire;
But control of the mind is better and more difficult.”
― Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi