Samskaras on the mat and off the mat, what can this do for you?
School holidays are a time to relax and unwind, as a primary school teacher I look at doing things that can serve me better, that I often don’t have the time to do as much as I would like to when juggling life and all the commitments with living it on a day to day basis. A last minute back to back class at Essence of Living opened me up to the amazing yoga instructor Hollie Bradley’s thoughts on Samskaras and boy was this just what I needed to unpack. When life is busy it is so easy to get into thought pattern loops and it takes time and effort to change these patterns. Let’s start by looking at what samskaras are.
“The word samskara comes from the Sanskrit sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). Samskaras make up our conditioning. Repeating samskaras reinforces them, creating a groove that is difficult to resist. Samskaras can be positive—imagine the selfless acts of Mother Theresa. They can also be negative, as in the self-lacerating mental patterns that underlie low self-esteem and self-destructive relationships.”
What thought pattern loops do you find come to mind often in your life, on the mat, or in your exercise training, in your work life and in your relationships? How can you break this cycle if these thought patterns are no longer serving you?
7 Steps to Change Samskaras:
1 – Intention:
Prior to practice I encourage my students to set an intention, a commitment or a focus for their workout or ‘workin’. This allows a goal to come to mind that can be revisited throughout the practice. If we have a goal in mind we set a direction for our course.
2 – Tapas (devotional discipline):
Commiting to an asana practice, journal writing, meditation practice creates a positive arena for freedom from negative samskaras.
3 – Slowing down through reflection:
Often negative samskaras become habit but if we are able to recognise triggers or emotion associated with this thought pattern we can stop this happening. Often this process of slowing down allows us to connect with our inner thoughts where the healing can only take place. Being reflective allows for a deeper insight and awareness towards our healing.
4 – Awareness:
Asking questions like what does this pattern have to tell me? How does it make me feel? Sad? Angry? A quote comes to mind “anger is just hurt in disguise”. Reflect on the thought and then release it by starting your sentence with “I release..”
5 – Fearlessness:
It is so easy to resort to previous comforts as they are familiar. Often repeating cycles prevents us from having to deal with new, unfamiliar emotion when this in turn can lead us to a new and better path. Through an attitude of fearlessness we are able to come face to face with unpleasant emotions instead of hiding behind them and repeating the same cycle again and again.
6 – Vision:
Once we have created new samskaras we need to use our senses to put it into place, what does it look like, sound like, feel like. The more we visualise it the more real it becomes. I often encourage clients to recognise the space and freedom pranayama and yoga creates. This space is the place where new samskaras are created.
7 – Practice:
This helps make our new samskaras engrained. It is during our practice that we can build on each of these elements of change and in turn leave behind old unhealthy thought patterns.
Old thought patterns can often become painfully familiar and people fear they may lose their identity or security if they give these up. In turn see the evolution of new thought patterns as the opportunity to become closer to our true selves which is the ultimate goal of yoga.
“Shifting samskara, then, is the ongoing work of chipping away at our negative patterns to illuminate the purity of the soul.”
I invite you to be reflective of current samskaras and open to the creation of new ones. Although the will to change unhealthy thought patterns requires effort on your part once you start the process it will become a more natural and easy flow.
Come and meet her on the mat! Book a class at Main Beach Yoga Classes