Despite our best efforts to micro-manage the external world around us, we simply do not have the ability to control other people or situations. But here’s the good news: we do have the ability to control something — our attitude. How we receive, process and respond to other people and situations.
Embedding the Learning Through Action
Before yoga came into my life, I was more than a little bit obsessed with studying and learning about my mind and my emotions, and how they were involved in my circumstances and outcomes. This obsession followed an extremely difficult emotional chapter that saw me almost completely fall apart, so it had less to do with indulging my ego and more to do with necessity.
I knew I had to make some changes, but I was caught up in reading and studying and not actually taking much action. I’d learnt that while I couldn't control all the thoughts that popped into my mind, I could consciously select what thoughts I let reside there.
While that knowledge was powerful, the positive changes came after I rediscovered yoga as an adult and began a regular practice.
Yoga gave me access to action-oriented learning. Instead of reading and thinking about the mind, thoughts, energy, and philosophy, I was able to put those things into practice and watch myself respond to mock life circumstances on my mat.
What I Learned From Warrior II
I remember how I responded when a teacher asked us to hold Warrior 2 in probably my third or fourth yoga class. What felt like an hour was probably only a minute or two, but I got to see the extent of my attitude in full swing.
I got frustrated because my legs began wobbling and that frustration turned to anger the longer we had to hold it. I pulled out well before the teacher offered us the option — not because I was in pain, I just didn’t like not being good at it. So what did that teach me exactly?
That experience on the mat showed me (in a very confronting way) what my response to challenges had become. Warrior 2 helped me realise that every time life handed me something difficult, I got frustrated and made a fast exit. Thankfully, instead of running away, I committed to a regular practice and kept actively imbedding a more positive attitude towards that pose and others.
Before long I was in love with Warrior 2, smiling in spite of the leg wobbles.
How Mudras Bring About Positive Change
Another way to facilitate positive change in yoga is the use of Mudras, which are simple yet very effective gestures that can cultivate a particular attitude. In fact, the word Mudra translates as both gesture, and attitude.
The most widely used is Anjali Mudra, palms pressed lightly together at the heart centre which can soothe emotions and energy at this space, and facilitate a higher level of consciousness. Another common Mudra is Gyan Mudra, sitting in easy cross-legged, hands on the knees, palms facing up with thumb and forefinger lightly touching. It relates to expansion and knowledge and has a calming effect, helping us detach from the outside world thus it’s widely used in meditation.
Shifting To A Positive Perspective
Yoga gives you the opportunity to change your attitude for yourself through your practice –not through reading, but through practice. The more you learn to surrender in Tree Pose, the more you learn to surrender to the flow of life. Focusing on the breath during Surya Namaskar may help you notice if you hold your breath in an argument with your partner.
And if you regularly nourish your body and cultivate gratitude for what it does for you as you move through postures, you train yourself to feel grateful for everything you have in your daily life. And that’s a whole lotta awesome.