We all know that the mind affects body, for example, “You look down in the dumps,” or “He was crestfallen.” Why not, suggests yoga, try the other way round…we are going to try to use asana to sculpt the mind.”
BKS Iyengar, Light on Life, page 11
Using asana to sculpt the mind, a brilliant observation and a powerful understanding that adds infinite depth to our practice.
It’s the idea that not only do asanas have certain inherent qualities that are revealed when we practice them, but that we can actually choose to cultivate what we want to experience more in our selves.
We can choose to sculpt courage in the face of vulnerability (i.e. backbends), one-pointed focus in the face of distraction (i.e. longer holdings), or resilience in the face of challenge (i.e. arm balances).
When we consciously join our experience of the asana with a chosen attitude, alchemy happens.
Here’s how it works: Each time we meet resistance in practice (in the form of vulnerability, distraction or challenge, to use the examples above) with a chosen attitude (like courage, one-pointed focus, or resilience), we chip away at our habitual mental reaction and forge a new pattern, this time one of our choosing. In this way we reshape our internal landscape. With time and practice, it results in our becoming more of who and how we wish to be.
How we do this, in what poses, for how long we hold them for and in what way we perform them is entirely up to us.
We can practice Adho Mukha Svanasana with the forehead supported to promote peace, with the hands elevated for upliftment or hold it for a 3-minutes to cultivate resolve.
Transformative, fun, and infinitely varied, the art of using the body to mold the mind is a creative process. It involves tailoring the practice to lead our unique manifestation of body-mind to toward a particular goal, in this case a chosen inner attitude.
I’ll be sharing some of sequences and ideas to explore this process in the next few weeks.