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. . . which way are you swinging?
In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali draws from and builds on the Samkhya School of Hindu Philosophy to describe the various layers we are made up of as human beings. From external (the body, senses, outer layers of the mind) to internal (prana/energy, inner parts of the mind and deep emotions), these layers go from gross to increasingly subtle and refined. Our locus of true perception is deep within and is capable of profound clarity. However, it can only perceive through the instruments and matter of our body and mind and each of these layers has developed or inherited patterns – samskaras – of seeing, feeling and responding that cloud, twist, shake and otherwise disturb our ability to see and act clearly.
The practice of yoga is a holistic practice that aims to lessen the prevalence and impact of erroneous, misguided or harmful patterns (vyutthana-samskara), which lead to such conditions as closed-mindedness, unrest, instability, feeling constricted and disturbed breathing, by strenghtening the prevalence of postive, clear, creative patterns (nirodha-samskara). These are patterns that bring openness, comfort, stability, optimism and long, refined breathing.
Vyutthana-samskara and nirodha-samskara sit on a seesaw. We are always strengthening either one or the other; always moving towards the light or getting lost in the thicket. Our every thought and action comes from one or the other and while we cannot hope nor would we want to be consciously scrutinising every decision – we have patterns precisely to allow us to act in a world that demands constant interpretation and response – we have the opportunity to use a yoga practice wisely to consciously build and strengthen patterns that lead us to perceive and act clearly.
According to Patanjali, the practice of yoga has as its ultimate goal – if you chose it, you may come to be practising yoga for any number of reasons associated with the samskara above – viveka: the ability to discern between what is real and what is unreal. On route to this, we practice with the tools of yoga to strengthen patterns of being, feeling, seeing and responding, in all of our layers, that bring the signs of nirodha; space, light, stability, fluidity and wellbeing. If our practice is not doing this, we may need to reflect or change something. An experienced teacher can guide you to develop an attentive, conscious practice that finds a part of you that can observe, take a moment, respond appropriately and take you where you really want to go.
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