To a yogi, the body is a laboratory for life, a field of experimentation and perpetual research. – BKS Iyengar
This idea that a yogi is a scientist whose body is their laboratory really hit home for me this week.
Yesterday evening something happened that really irritated me. Someone did something that made me see red. I was pissed off.
This led to some insight. I find it fascinating how easy it is to spin stories around what’s going on outside ourselves, what other people are doing and saying, and then use that to justify and indulge in some negativity. A burst of anger, a spot of indignation, some good solid RAAAAGE, with a dollop of judgement for good measure. These are my ego’s personal go-to favourites, but we all have our specialities, you know, the ones you can just run with and do really well. They even feel kinda good. On a certain level.
But as we practice yoga, we start to learn a lot about ourselves. And we learn about ourselves on a very physical and tangible level. Our body really is our laboratory. We notice, on a very basic yoga-101-level, if I take a few deep breathes……aaaaaahh that feels goooooood. Wowza, I can shift my inner state and experience simply by taking certain actions with my body.
As we accumulate this knowledge of our physiology, our vijnamaya kosha (our wisdom and intuition, our personal bank of ‘stuff we know’ grows bigger. So when you find yourself off kilter, off balance like I did this week, and spinning stories about other people being the cause of you feeling shitty, the vijnamaya kosha is there in the background stating loud and clear, ‘dude, you know this is bullshit’.
So I found myself pissed off the other day and rather than blaming the other person I decided to put my science glasses on and dive in below the surface. Why was I so irritated? I know that this is a sign of unbalance in me, so why was I off balance?
This year I’ve been through two coaching programmes where I’ve been guided through 10 key habits from yoga and ayurveda that all humans need to experience real health and happiness.
My coach has guided me to look deeper into my own laboratory and to take this very scientific approach that the ancient yogis took. One thing she said that sprung to mind is that you only need to look back 24 hours, usually the answer to why you’re feeling a certain way in this moment lies in things you’ve done (or not done) in the last 24 hours.
It was pretty obvious when I looked back what the issues were. I’d been in a work training event all day and hadn’t moved my body enough. Recently I’ve started a new habit of getting up and taking a 4 minutes walk every hour or so around the office block because, siting is the new smoking (INSER URL). I hadn’t done that on this day. The training also went on longer than my usual working day so I’d actually spent more time than usual sedentary.
The change in my office routine and the fact that it’s close to Christmas so there is temptation everywhere also threw me off as I made some less than ideal food choices. I snacked between meals and ate crisps and brownies. Not great.
I also didn’t drink enough water.
You might not think that these three points and my bad mood were necessarily related. A lot of people might look at the situation and think I was justified to be annoyed by what happened. And hey, everyone snacks and eats crisps and what-not occasionally. No biggy.
But I know from my experience this year experimenting with these 10 simple habits from yoga and ayurveda, from making lots of small changes to my daily routine and observing the effects of these on my body and mind, that the small choices we make within each day have a huge impact on how we feel, and what kind of experiences we create for ourselves.
We create the conditions in our body for either anger and irritation to flourish, or joy and ease.
I know that if I snack my digestive system is not allowed to do its job properly. It’s disturbed and put under unnecessary strain. When this happens ama (undigested matter, toxic crap) starts to accumulate in the GI tract and cause havoc. If it’s not allowed to clear out, if I keep putting more stuff in and if I don’t stay hydrated to ensure the body can process and pass out the debris, then it starts to spread out from the GI tract and into the blood, and from there it circulates further into the body, and into the mind. BAM, hello irritation if you’re a pitta person like me. If you’re constitution is predominantly vata you might experience the unbalance as anxiety, or overwhelm. If you’re kapha it might appear as lethargy or depression. Whatever the symptom, it’s a sign that all is not well in the universe of you.
The beauty of this realisation is that, actually, there ain’t no-one else to blame but yourself if you find yourself feeling shitty over stuff that’s really not that important. We realise how much power we have to shape our own lives. To shape the kind of body we have, the kind of mind we have and the kind of life we experience day-to-day.
Rather than berating ourselves for making poor choices (we’ve all been there), like scientists we can objectively and without judgement, gather evidence of our current experience.
I feel irritable, annoyed, heated.
Is this how I want to feel?
…and work back to document what led to it. Without chastising ourselves fot he poor choices we identify that we’ve made we can start to pick it apart.
What led to that choice? That action?
What were the triggers?
What was my thought process?
If I could play the day back again what would I do differently?
How can I make it easy for myself to do it differently next time?
Through positive visualisation of what we wish to do next time to get a better end result (feeling easeful and happy versus irritable and angry) we can lay the neural pathways in our brain to tackle the situation more skillfully next time around.