Yoga is many things to different people. It’s exercise, it’s stress relief, it’s a social activity, it’s a mood booster, and it’s even an effective way to cope with chronic pain.
What yoga truly is at its very core, however, is a journey into the self. By diving deeper into the self, the practitioner learns to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t through knowledge, selflessness, love, devotion, and self-control. This is called self-realization.
Self-realization is the experience of oneness with truth. The word “yoga” actually means “union” or “connection,” and it is through this system that anyone, anywhere can realize their truth and full potential through integration of the mind, body, and spirit.
There are many things you can do to promote greater self-realization through your yoga practice. Here are just a few practical suggestions to really focus on.
Practice standing poses to ground yourself and set your foundation.
Standing poses bring your awareness to your connection with the ground beneath you, demanding involvement and cooperation from all parts of the body. Poses like Warrior I, Warrior II, high lunge, side angle pose, chair pose, and others teach you how to create a steady foundation by firmly grounding your feet to the earth and engaging the muscles in the legs, core, and upper body so you can stand strong, feel more confident, and set yourself up for great potential.
Practice inversions to experiment with the unknown from another perspective.
Anyone who has ever watched a yogi do an inversion knows that inversions look and feel much different when they actually try to get into the pose themselves. Inverting the body helps you to see the world and feel the body from a whole new perspective—one that is often not experienced in everyday modern life. Inversions like headstand, handstand, dolphin poses, shoulder stand and others encourage you to face your fears and gain more clarity in the process of doing so.
Practice balance poses to calm and sharpen your state of mind.
The simple act of balancing has a calming effect on the mind because it forces you to focus and concentrate on one point to maintain balance—freeing your state of being from racing thoughts and bringing you back to the present moment. Try lord of the dance pose, Warrior III, tree pose, eagle pose, half moon, and others to become more aware of the reality that change is the only thing that is guaranteed in life and that the current present moment demands your full attention.
Practice slow, gently expansive breathing to restore equilibrium in the mind and body.
This should be a given in yoga, but you’d be surprised how many yogis simply focus on the physical aspect without giving nearly enough attention to breath work. The mind, body, and breath are very intimately connected and therefore influence each other. By consciously breathing properly with each yoga pose, you can tame anxiety, depression, fatigue, muscle tension, general stress and overwhelm. Clearing these mental, emotional, and physical blocks is necessary for going deeper into the true nature of the self.