We've been living through so much lately. With two years of political, social, and economic struggle - it's almost impossible to get our footing in this rapidly changing world.
What do we do? How can we handle all of this?
The last six years of my life have been spent learning how to handle big emotions and situations. I think before then, I was just kind of running from everything. Now I know how to stop the emotions in their tracks. Sit down with them; get to know them. Yoga was my main teacher throughout. And no, not the fancy poses - they didn't really do much for me. It was the thought-process of yoga that did it. The larger system that surrounds the poses. Where can you get this information? When you come to a yoga class, these ideas are woven in. That's how I first heard about them. As I enjoyed hearing about them, I studied more. It wasn't a magic process. It unfolded overtime. I did it, and you can do it too.
As we struggle with the challenges of being human these days, we can learn much from yoga. I will share some of these ideas below. These ideas come from an ancient text called The Yoga Sutras. This text is the basis for modern yoga instruction.
Check your attachments
Attaching ourselves to things brings suffering. Think about it. Are you attaching yourself to an idea of yourself? an idea of success? an image of what you should look like? a belief of where you should be in life? attaching to your work production? to your caretaking?
We think that thing that we attach to is what makes us, but that's not true. Sutra 1.15 reminds us that hitching ourselves up to any outcome or person will lead to suffering.
What if you let go of that attachment? What would change? (I think you'll feel lighter).
What can I control?
We can control very little. But what we can control is mighty - ourselves.
We can control how we let things affect us. I used to let my emotions literally run away with me; worrying about so many things that just were not within my reach. What I have learned is that I am responsible for how much I think about things, and how much of my day it takes up.
As an empath, I worry about the world as a whole. In times of strife, I have to work really hard to calm myself down. I do that by detaching myself from the emotions of the world and bringing myself back to my center of control. I breathe into it.
"Be the change you wish to see in the world" - set the example for others will follow. We can't make others believe what we want, but we can show them what it looks and feels like in the hopes of bettering the world.
Identify your thoughts
We have different TYPES of thoughts, and not all of them are true. Sutra 1.6 identifies five different types of thoughts:
Correct/right knowledge - these are the thoughts that are true. We either directly perceived them, or we read/heard them from a reliable source.
Misconception/incorrect knowledge - these are thoughts that we mistakenly believed. One translation of the Sutras gives the example of mistaking a coiled up piece of rope for a snake.
Verbal delusion/imagination - these are thoughts that are not based in reality, typically we hear this information second hand.
Sleep - thoughts we have while sleeping.
Memory - thoughts we have about what happened in the past.
Knowing these types of thoughts can give us power. Upon receiving a thought (we have countless numbers of these a day) we can ask ourselves - is this true? how do I know? Is it possible I am mistaken? What makes me believe this?
All of these types of thoughts besides "correct/right knowledge" have the ability to trick us. They can lead us to believe something that is not true. They can cause unnecessary suffering.
And of course it's challenging to know what is "correct/right knowledge" too! That's when we make time to be silent; to listen to our inner voice. Only you can know your truth.
Swap your thoughts out
"When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of" - Sutra 2.33
When we have thoughts that are not helpful, we should swap them out for something better. It's not easy, and definitely something we have to practice.
ALL of this takes practice - that's why yoga is called just that - a "practice." Notice then, that yoga takes place both on the mat AND off the mat (in your daily life).
Here are some examples of swapping thoughts out:
That was a stupid mistake ----> I'm learning
There's no way this will work ---> All I can do is try my best
I hate the way I look ---> I'm grateful for all my body does for me
This is a waste of time ---> There is always something to learn in each experience
Everything can feel heavy when we're sad. We think what we want is just to sit. But too much sitting isn't good for us. Think of it this way, if your body is sitting, then so is your mind, and then your thoughts are just festering there with nowhere to go.
That's why the asana (pose) practice of yoga is also important. Moving our bodies through poses tires us out. When our body is tired, our mind is less apt to THINK SO MUCH. When our body is fit, we can sit for longer periods in breath work and meditation (note that being "fit" is different for everyone. It doesn't necessarily look a certain way).
If movement and poses sounds intimidating to you, that's ok. Just get moving anyway that feels good to you. Walk for 2 minutes, then increase to 5, 7, 9, etc. Any amount will help.
These are all yogi ideas that have helped me feel better. I hope they help you, too.
If this blog interested you, try our Wellness class series - 30 minutes of yoga philosophy (like what I wrote today), breathing, meditation, and journaling. Each week in May, a new on-demand video will be added. Or, come to our live yoga classes M, T, W, TH, and SUN. We offer a variety of styles of yoga to help you reach your happy place:)
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