Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
If you’ve ever driven along a highway and in the lane alongside you was a car going the exact same speed, you’ve probably glanced over and felt as if you and the other driver existed in the same still place, even though you both were traveling at 75 mph. You’ve also probably witnessed this synchronization in nature when a flock of birds or a school of fish moves together as a singularity.
This stillness amidst external movement is similar to the sensation of anubhava, a Sanskrit term that conveys being so in sync with yourself that you’re able to find a sense of stillness within your own being, despite whatever your outside circumstances. Anubhava comes from the Sanskrit words anu (which means “along with”) and bhu (which conveys the “process of becoming”). Anubhava is, literally, going along with the process of becoming yourself. It is learning to be more fluent in yourself throughout the flow of your experience. And it is the greatness of yoga.
How anubhava shows up in life…or doesn’t
You can think of anubhava as a state of being comfortable in your own skin.
Anubhava can be:
- Knowing you’re successful for being where you are now
- Being unattached to numbers of social media followers and likes
- Understanding that perfection is always right in front of you
- Allowing your real self to be seen by others
- Contentment with the things that you have and an understanding of those things you actually need
- An ability to set clear boundaries, which actually allows you more freedom
Anubhava is not:
- Thoughts like “when I achieve [fill in the blank], then I’ll be successful.”
- Chasing followers or likes
- Looking for perfection
- Craving validation from others
- Putting up shields due to shame and insecurity
- Accumulating too much stuff
- Having no boundaries
How to practice anubhava
Embodying anubhava comes naturally to children. As you become older, it can be a lifelong practice to find it again. The more you can learn about yourself, observe your inner thoughts and emotions, and ignore external validation (or the lack thereof), the closer you move toward anubhava. A few principles to consider as you seek yourself:
Understand that who you are is constantly changing
Who you are changes over time and in response to different situations. You are one person to your coworker, another to your spouse, and another to your parents, even though you are the same person.
Ask for help
Consider finding someone to be a sounding board to help you normalize the seemingly “weird” parts of you. A therapist, a trusted friend, or an energy worker may be able to help you find parts of yourself that have been hidden or suppressed. When you can see the shadows in yourself, you can be attentive to those aspects and how they show up. It lets you observe them rather than push them away, deny they exist, and experience them coming out sideways later. An example would be acknowledging to yourself, “I know that I get overwhelmed at parties, and as a result, instead of saying ‘I need to leave,’ I tend to snap at people. Now that I know this, I can make a plan to leave gatherings gracefully when I need.”
Knowing yourself takes resilience, courage, and tapas (steady practice and effort). The reward is ease, comfort, and being aligned with your entire being. It’s worth it.