Yoga is about discovering the core of who we are. As we deepen our physical connection to our inner Self, we also open the doors to our spiritual centre – that safe space within us that isn’t shaken by anxiety, fear, insecurity or other negative feelings.
In the winter months, we are all bundled up in comfy coats, hats, scarves and gloves and we feel safe and cosy beneath these layers that protect us from the outside world. Similarly, even though on a different level, we all bring layers with us to our yoga practice: the various roles we play in our lives, the other people and things we are responsible for and the full spectrum of past and present experiences – all of these can show up on the mat with us.
Yoga has the great power to bring us back to an essential sense of who we are, free from roles and assumptions super imposed by social assumptions.
Deepak Chopra, the world-renowned leader in the fields of holistic health and human potential, has identified three ways to connect with our centre and use the inner energy to nourish ourselves and thrive on and off the mat – awareness, attention and intention.
Once you become aware that you may have lost your centre, you can take this as an opportunity to make a conscious choice to shift your internal state. So, it is important to realise when you are off balance. From this perspective, awareness is a great tool to promote change by redirecting your energy or focus where they are needed.
To begin cultivating internal awareness, you could try starting any new task by closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths, and direct your energies outwards from a place of centred balance. You can imagine yourself moving effortlessly through every experience with clarity, focus, and awareness. Let this sensation become an anchor for feeling calmer and at peace and for bringing this feeling with you as you go about your day.
Awareness also means being mindful of what is happening around you. You can observe yourself and your movements and try to stay in the present moment. To do that, you can start by paying attention to the rhythm of your breath. Slow and purposeful breathing can help slow things down so that you can become more aware of your body and your surroundings.
From here, you can start paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. Do you have any tightening sensations in your body? Can you direct the breath there to relax and release tension? Can you shift the pattern of your thoughts towards options that you couldn’t see before? A great way to create change in the present moment is by paying attention to the sensations of your physical body and to your place in time and space.
As a final step, you can think about how you would like to respond to life’s challenges and base your intentions on that. All intentions are future-based seeds planted in the present moment, as change can only happen in the here and now.
Learning to move from a place within us – a core essence that is beyond time and space, pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, even beyond creation or destruction—is probably one of the most important teachings of yoga.