Do you ever have random memories arise? You had no idea it was in there and you also have no idea why it arose at that particular moment; then, as suddenly as it appeared, it is gone. You may also feel physical sensation arise simultaneously… This is Samskara – imprints or impressions on the mind body.
When Samskaras remain locked in the body, sensation will be the result. Much of the time the sensation is one we would lable as painful ot uncomfortable, which is where Yoga (and other therapies such as Qi Gong and Vioadsana meditation) comes into play. When I practice not identifying with the mind-stuff – the persistent noise in my brain – I create the perfect environment for sensation to arise without the need to react like I usually would. When I allow the physical sensation to occur without trying to change it in some way (eg. scratch an itch) I am allowing the samskara to escape it’s prison within the body; therefore, as I turn my focus inward, onto my breath, I am existing in the present moment fully. I can feel what is happening on a physical level and also on an emotional level without the constant judgement of my analytical mind. This, if you have not experienced it, is true peace and quiet. I live for it as well as because of it.
The key is to take this mindfulness into every aspect of your life, which is the hard part considering the way we have been programmed – to escape pain and seek out pleasure at all cost. We have become masters of blocking pain to find pleasure in all the most damaging ways. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it is not possible and with practice, even the most difficult exercises become easy (or at least easier).
The wonderful thing about this is that we all have the ability to change at any given moment; like the flick of a switch, we can choose to be present. It is as simple as asking your focus to be on your next inhalation (nostril breathing) and then ask it to stay for the subsequent exhale. Then do it again. Maybe, you can notice what that breath feels like inside your nose; throat; lungs. If you have time to sit still and do this – perfect – but if not that’s still fine. If you are doing something, like walking from your desk to the loo maybe, just bring your attention to what each step feels like. Possibly even slow down a little. Concentrate on walking; notice everything you can about that action. Even if your mind wanders away again quickly, you were free from your monkey mind for that blissful moment. Just do it again… as many times as you can.
So, why yoga? Well, all of this is actually yoga. The union of the body and mind is yoga. Mindfulness IS yoga. Yoga is not just an hour (or two for my fellow ashtangis 😉) on a rubber mat, it is the practice of bringing your awareness into the now. However, I do promote yoga asana practice because it assists with freeing up the samskaras. It is designed to open up the physical body whilst the mental body is focussing on breathing, which allows the samskaras to arise and fall away without disturbance. After a practice, no matter what kind (vinyasa, yin, seated meditation) I feel lighter and my head is less busy.
I believe I am a better person when I keep a regular practice and that is a good enough reason in itself really, isn’t it?