Greetings fellow yogis and yoginis!
In Sanskrit, one of the oldest of languages, the word samskara (also spelled “sanskara”) means inner patterns, and memories like grooves that create our mental, emotional and physical default settings. Neurophysiologists mapping neural pathways in the brain report that each time we react in certain ways, whether it is feeling love, getting angry, procrastinating or any repeated behavior, wanted or unwanted, we strengthen the power of that pathway.
Samskaras are powerful, which is why knowing better doesn’t always change the behavior. We now know there are very effective and simple ways of changing these grooves. The brain is so malleable, so able to take and hold impressions, that as long as we keep leading it toward new pathways, practices and experiences we will eventually eliminate the old unwanted ones.
One of the best ways to create new samskaras is to continue to consciously shift negative thoughts and patterns into positive ones. This is not as easy as it sounds; it takes lots of practice and awareness that it is even happening to change, and like anything, becomes easier in time.
Intention plays an important part in this, but can intention really transform anything, such as heal a terminal illness or change the physical makeup of our bodies? Maybe. The jury is still out. Yoga says yes and no. Certain aspects of our personality and constitution seem to be unchangeable according to Ayurveda, however; there is no question that when we enter deeply into our consciousness, extraordinary shifts take place. Balance and healing can be profoundly effective.
Our yoga practice is integral to changing these samskaric patterns as we purify, reforge and replace them through intention, attention and action. Through the practice of asana (the poses), meditation, mantra repetition, visualization and Pranayama (breath work) to name a few, we not only create new, positive Samskaras, but we wipe out the old limiting and pain producing ones. Meditation is especially effective as it works on a subconscious level, literally cleansing your unconscious of some of its burden, whether we think a change is occurring or not.
As we move into this Vata season (fall to early winter) whose theme IS change, we realize that big changes rarely happen overnight (and in Florida the season change is not as noticeable as it is in other parts of the world). At the same time, every effort you make is moving you in the direction of your desire.
Try to appreciate the movement itself, enjoying the journey, knowing that you are on the road to where you want to go, and that everything happening in your life now is in perfect order, and the proof of that is…. that it is happening!
Have compassion and appreciation for yourself. Realize how much power you have and how wonderful and joyful this journey can be if you make the decision to make it so.