Self-awareness can transform our lives. When we understand why we do what we do, we have the power to change. Without self-awareness, we falter in our attempts to make even small changes — for example, or be more patient with work colleagues.
Why is self-awareness so important? Because it reveals the motivation behind our actions. If we think our irritability at work is due to a colleague’s annoying habits, we keep being irritated. If we examine the situation with the goal of becoming self-aware we may discover our irritation is actually a mask for resentment or for insecurity. Shining the light of self-awareness on a situation lets us to address the real problem.
Self-awareness is something we can cultivate through yoga, in and out of the studio. The following three practices will help to develop self-awareness and create new avenues for growth and change.
Awareness of breath
Breathing is a fundamental element of yoga that you can tune into at any point in your day, this makes it a powerful aid to self-awareness. ArtofLiving.org suggests this five-step Ujjayi ritual to begin a meditation:
- Sit comfortably in a chair. You may also sit cross-legged on the ground or on a yoga mat.
- Slowly breathe out while making a “Ha” sound.
- Now stretch this “Ha” sound, so that it becomes a long deep breath “Haaaaaaa”.
- Breathe in while slowly making the “Ha” sound, but this time close your mouth. Feeling the throat slightly constricted and air flowing at the throat
- With the mouth closed, continue breathing like this, in and out, for 10 long deep breaths. As you take in a long deep “in” breath, breathe an equally long “out” breath.
If you’re on the train, at work, in a shop, or anywhere, you can tune in to consciously taking long, slow, equal in and out breaths to calm your mind. When you do this, you calm your body’s stress reactions and slow racing thoughts. This gives you the space to analyse your mind and bring full consciousness to a situation instead of reacting.
Awareness of asana
Use your time in yoga class to practice observing and understanding your body-mind connection, this will increase your awareness of how you respond to your surroundings and condition. Ask yourself questions as you move through your practice: Why do you choose your particular spot in the studio? What thoughts do you observe as you wait for class to begin? Do you anticipate or dread certain poses? How do you respond to other students’ presence and energy? What emotions arise if you fall out of a posture? As you become aware of your reactions to the asanas you begin to understand how you relate to the physical world at large.
Awareness of meditation
Meditation teaches us to observe our feelings without being carried away. When we meditate we observe thoughts and feelings that arise, without attaching to them. Emotions are waves that sweep in and knock us off our feet. When we develop self-awareness through meditation we begin to understand their origin, just as scientists, through study, learn how waves are generated. As we do so, we may find areas that need healing or care — such as grief, disappointment or loss. Once we know what needs attention, we have the chance to work towards positive change.
What is your definition of self-awareness? Share in the comments?