“Yoga is stilling the thought-waves of the mind” ~ Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (1.2)
So, hands up, who has a busy mind? (My hand is going up too in case you were wondering!)
A mind that is constantly chattering away; providing a running commentary on what you’re doing now, running through the past and worrying about the future.
A chattering mind, which is constantly judging and commenting, and is looking for constant stimulation.
Sound familiar? This can be called the Monkey Mind – jumping from one thing to another, never settling. Causing you confusion and draining your energy.
Have you ever wished you could have a moment’s peace from the voice in your head which keeps going over things and keeps jumping from one topic to another?
Or does the idea that your mind is something you can control sound bizarre to you?
You are not your mind
Well, yoga can teach us that we are not our minds.
If you’ve ever noticed your mind chattering away, have you ever asked yourself what or who is doing that noticing?
Well, that could be called your higher self, or your true self. A silent observer deep within you; often not noticed but actually always there.
You might call it your intuition. You might call it your soul. A sense which knows what is right and true for you. It transcends the ego.
A knower or seer which never changes. It’s a deep sense of compassion, knowledge, wisdom within us. But too often it’s masked by the noise made by those chattering monkeys in our mind!
Fundamentally, the practice of yoga is to still these thoughts; to quieten the mind. To allow us to connect to this deep sense of stillness which is always there within us.
Yoga strengthens our bodies and encourages good health and vitality. It helps us to learn to reconnect with our body and listen to and answer its needs.
Yoga can help us to accept our bodies as they are. And when we begin to do this, we can silence the story our mind may keep telling us about our body. “I’m too fat / too thin / too short / too tall”, “my back aches / my knees hurt / I am in pain”, “I’m not flexible enough / I can’t touch my toes”, “I’m too old to do that” and so on…
By connecting to the power of our breath we can start to slow, balance and soothe our nervous system. We can breathe deeply and slow down our mind and calm our emotions.
We can break the connection between what our ego-mind attaches to (usually the material e.g. “I need that new such as such to make me happy”, “If I could lose this weight I’d be happy”, “If I can get that promotion I’ll be happy”) and start to build a deeper connection with ourselves.
We can bring in positive and sustaining thoughts such as “I am perfect as I am”, “I have all that I need”, “my life is unfolding perfectly”.
The gentle power of meditation
We can learn to meditate and watch the thoughts come and go and find stillness in that watching.
Our mind constantly changes – and in doing so it reflects the fact that all material things change. Our bodies are constantly changing – old cells die, new ones are born. We can’t stop this. Change is natural.
But the silent observer who watches the thoughts, who observes the changing nature of our bodies and our environment, is a constant presence.
Sitting comfortably and watching your breath is a simple and powerful form of meditation.
Bring your whole attention onto your breath – notice it coming in at and leaving your nostrils, or notice the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen as you breathe in and breathe out. If your mind wanders, simply note that you’re thinking, let the thoughts go … and bring your awareness back to your breath.
Your mind may (will!) wander a hundred times a minute. But keep bringing it back to focus on your breath. You will begin to experience calm – even if only for a moment at first.
Have you ever felt a deep, profound sense of tranquillity? Where, even if just for a fleeting moment, you felt all was well with you and the world? Where no problem seems insurmountable? Maybe you felt a sense of bliss?
That is the silent observer, the seer, within you coming through.
You may notice it as a sense of stillness, a deep sense of compassion, a profound knowledge that we are all connected.
And while this silent observer, the seer, may be masked by the white noise our mind creates, know that it never leaves us. It transcends our body and it transcends our ego-mind.
We all have this seer within us – it is what truly connects us all.
To rediscover the seer is what yoga practice is truly about. This is yoga.
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Stella Tomlinson teaches Dru yoga in Southampton, UK. Dru yoga is a flowing and therapeutic style of yoga, characterised by graceful movements, directed breathing, relaxation techniques and working with affirmations and visualisations. Connect with Stella via Facebook and Twitter.