As yogis, most of us continually strive to move through life more mindfully. Yet sometimes, despite our best efforts, we run into obstacles and react in ways that don’t serve us. We vow to cut back on sugar, then cave at the sight of cookies; we get down on ourselves for playing the comparison game when looking at social media feeds; we feel frustrated if we can’t balance in Bakasana (Crane Pose) during yoga class. Often, these roadblocks are tied to our samskaras, the Sanskrit term for the mental and emotional grooves, or habits, that we find ourselves falling back into time and time again.
What Are Samskaras?
Whether conscious or unconscious, positive or negative, samskaras make up our conditioning and influence how we respond in certain situations. Changing these deeply ingrained patterns can be difficult—even if those patterns cause us pain. The good news is that we can use our yoga practice to examine our samskaras, identify what may be getting in the way of realizing our best intentions, and work with what we uncover.
By observing our reactive patterns on the yoga mat and meditation cushion, we’re better able to recognize when we react mindlessly in real life—and in turn, consciously shift our feelings, thoughts, emotions, moods, and behaviors. For example, if you lose your balance in Vrksasana (Tree Pose), look at how you talk to yourself. Are you kind? Or do you beat yourself up? Can you dust yourself off and try again, even when you feel like giving up?
The most common roadblocks I see students struggle with on a regular basis are self-criticism, frustration, and lack of willpower. The following sequences will help you cultivate the tools you need to work through your roadblocks, so you can break the patterns that no longer serve you and call in new ones that will help you live more mindfully.
You can fold this mini-sequence into a longer home practice or simply do these five poses followed by a restorative supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) and a supine hip opener, such as Sucirandhrasana (Eye-of-the-Needle Pose). Finish in Savasana (Corpse Pose).