One of the main principles of yoga is balance. "Sthira sukham asanam"-- in everything we do there should be effort and ease, both qualities united, existing simultaneously. In Yoga Sutras, which is considered to be one of the main texts on yoga, Patanjali writes about the quality of being present, alert and relaxed at the same time. The book doesn't mention any specific pose or a sequence of poses, instead Patanjali talks about controlling our breathing, which in turn disciplines our mind and allows us to be fully present. This idea of reconciling the opposites, "ha" (sun) and "tha"(moon), yin and yang, is at the core of many wisdom traditions, yet so often we forget and become rigid, we get stressed, hold breath and tense up. If we could only remember in a challenging situation how to find balance of strength and relaxation, effort and ease, we would be so much more effective. Remembering to breathe fully, would supply much needed oxygen to the brain and muscles and we would be able to make better decisions. When the mind is clear, when we feel peaceful, we are much more likely to make the right choices. We are good at what we train, we can practice being mindful and peaceful in a sequence of challenging yoga poses or a sequence of strength or balance exercises. If there is a challenging situation, can we see it as an opportunity for practice?
"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character,
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."
a variation of an ancient proverb
Understanding our true nature changes everything about us, "every thought, feeling, and emotion, as well as every aspect of [our] behavior is predicated on the way [we] feel about [ourselves]," says Erich Schiffmann, one of the most prominent yoga teacher. Many of us hold conflicting and confusing notions about ourselves accumulated over the years. We often base our self image on the opinions of others, which may or may not be accurate. As a result, when it comes to our self image, we hold lots of conflicting notions. Yoga gives us tools to discard those wrong and outdated messages, to let go, be free and live our lives fully. Yoga helps us slow down enough to discover our true self in order to see the world and participate in the world with more clarity.