Get flexible in mind and attitude to effect real change:how simply moving your mat can start to shift the samskara. By Andrea Marcum
The seasons of spring and summer bring with them opportunity…a chance to clean out some of the cobwebs from the winter and replace them with vibrant possibility (even if you happen to live in LA like I do where the change of season is barely detectable). Longer days shine new light on the places we’ve been feeling a bit stuck in our routine or uninspired during our hibernation.
In yoga philosophy, samskara are the impressions left on the subconscious mind by experience. You might think of them as habits, or learned behaviour. My favourite visual description is that samskara are like the grooves that form in a sandy riverbed from the water flowing in the same pattern year after year. And, though some samskara can be positive, a lot of it is negative programming that looks like this: I’m not good enough at that, strong enough to do that, thin enough to wear that, patient enough to learn that…I can’t!
Sound familiar? We carry this detrimental conditioning around like a heavy backpack; often unaware of what’s in it or how weighed down we are by it until we take it off. Samskara can be sly and determined; they are the cobwebs we want to clear out so we can enjoy our time in the summer. In order to move forward, however, we have to loosen our grip on a few of the things we think we know (sorry!).
We get so attached to our usual spot in the yoga room, our favourite Venti triple-shot caramel latte, the same spin bike, and the daily grind we become unwilling to bend, even just a little. I’ve had students leave my classroom because they didn’t get ‘their spot’. But when we limit the ingredients, everything starts to taste the same and eventually we get burned out, unimaginative and even more inflexible.
So this summer I propose that we Become Bendy – malleable in new ways that allows us to blossom fully. Let’s escape our tightly wound, black and white ideas about things, get out from underneath our samskara and broaden our palate. Yes, Becoming Bendy is a bit of a leap of faith, but it’s also the prescription for the new summer season.
Adele Diamond is a neuroscientist and specialist on learning. She says: “We learn by doing. The more of you that gets involved (the body, the emotions) the more you will get out of it. When we participate in something, it’s far more likely to stay with us than if we sit and have it told to us.”
“Just as the gradual transition from winter to spring lights up our days little by little, even the subtlest shifts in our lives can illuminate new paths and perspectives.”
So let’s do this! Let’s start by simply putting our mat down in a new part of the room each time we practice (whether that’s in our own home practicing online, or in the local studio). We can agree to that, can’t we? Think of it as a refresh from our habitual ‘my spot’ status quo.
Don’t underestimate the power of a new vantage point. Just as the gradual transition from winter to spring lights up our days little by little, even the subtlest shifts in our lives can illuminate new paths and perspectives. When we stop sticking to our same story, we start to see that conditioning and repetition influence not just what we perceive, but how we perceive. Changing the position of our mat also repositions our mind. We begin to bend in ways that facilitate both the humbleness and the confidence it takes to move from remaining stuck at what we can’t do, to embracing what we can.
You never know where that might lead…our willingness to stretch outside of what we know could inspire a different route to work, ordering something we’ve never tried from the menu, picking up a new book, making a new friend, setting a new goal, braving a new adventure. Each seemingly innocuous brush stroke creating new patterns as we design the vision for our lives. As we explore our new-found pliability we may never touch our toes, but we’ll learn that the true prize is in the reaching. (And just for the record: I’ve had many students leap from moving their mat in the room, to unrolling it across the globe with me on retreat.)
If we’re willing to Become Bendy, I believe yoga can make us flexible enough to discover a new spring in our step regardless of the season — from the sunny summer months, right though into winter.
Practice yoga online with Andrea Marcum at: andreamarcum.com