Have you run across the idea that your yoga mat can act as your therapist? I know on one level that sounds facetious, but think about it. You put yourself on your mat routinely and, each time you do, it’s an opportunity for you to watch your behaviour.
What are your responses as you practice. How do you react when you find a pose too hard? Or, if you’re in a class, what happens when your teacher pulls you back or asks you to use a prop? By themselves, the postures are meaningless and props are just neutral. It’s your reactivity that is of interest and your approach to yoga can reveal your patterns, or what is called in Sanskrit, your samskara.
Yoga philosophy says that we’re born with certain karmic mental and emotional tendencies – samskara – that influence our lives until we learn to control them through conscious awareness.
The way you approach yoga, and any reactivity you have, probably originated long before you started practising; but your mat can be where you witness what you’re up to.
For me, when I’m on the mat, my go-to gears in the past have been somewhat pushy and show-offy. The good thing about ageing is that it has put limits on those modus operendi because: 1) it takes too much energy to go on pushing through, and 2) there are youngsters out there who can rings around my ekapadrajakapotasanas and adho mukha vrksasanas.
Samskara are just habits – not necessarily good or bad. But if your behaviour on the mat isn’t serving you or ultimately satisfying, it’s likely time for a change.
Tacchidresu pratyayantarani samskarebhyah
Any gaps in discriminating awareness allow distracting thoughts to emerge from the store of latent impressions.*
*The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, translation and commentary by Chip Hartranft.