A colleague recently shared an experience from a teacher training session he led about the traditional goals of yoga practice. During his presentation, several students expressed their discomfort because the information he shared challenged their beliefs regarding the purposes of yoga.
As he tried to address their misunderstandings, the students reacted defensively. In his view, they were unwilling to consider viewpoints that contradicted their more Westernized perspectives on yoga.
He came to a thought-provoking conclusion: If only they were as willing to challenge their minds as they were to challenge their bodies.
Indeed, many of us readily embrace the idea of pushing our physical boundaries for the sake of well-being and health. But what if we could equally welcome the challenge of stretching our mental limits?
Granted, it can be harder to challenge our minds because we tend to closely identify with what we think and feel as who we are. But yoga shows us another possibility.
In an introspective yoga practice, one of the key things you learn is to recognize the self-reflective nature of human consciousness. This is your capacity to be aware of what you are aware of, to know what you’re thinking. It’s an awesome and mysterious ability that science has yet to fully explain.
As you foster this ability, you become able to realize that the voice in your head isn’t necessarily you, and that you aren’t only your thoughts and feelings. Instead, they exist within the field of your consciousness.
The shift isn’t so much in changing what’s going on in your mind, but in changing your relationship to it.
Once you aren’t fully identified with your thoughts and feelings, you become free to explore new perspectives and open yourself to new possibilities. You realize the mind's potential for evolution, and it propels you forward on the path of self-discovery.