Most people think of yoga as a form of exercise where flexibility is a must and without it you’re out of luck. First, one doesn’t need to be flexible to begin the yoga journey, rather physical flexibility comes as a result of practice. Second, and more importantly, it is the flexibility of mind that allows us to explore the larger picture of yoga and really begin to change our lives. One of the fruits of an integrated practice is our ability to build willpower and resolve so that we can become a mighty force in life.
For many of us, we inadvertently – or unconsciously – find ourselves stuck in mental and physical patterns thinking and doing things that do not serve our higher purpose: thought processes that keep us stuck in ruts; eating in ways that keep us from feeling healthy; working in toxic environments that breed unhappiness, etc. These patterns can go on for years. Even with material success we may feel unfulfilled on some level.
Through the practice of yoga we can awaken to these realities, bringing them to our consciousness and then deciding to act. To do this we first must cultivate our willpower and resolve. Practice affords us greater mental clarity to start making different choices in our lives.
Where to start?
The physical practice of yoga is great way to begin building resolve. Progressively building up to and successfully doing challenging poses creates a sense of accomplishment. This is so important for those who have self-doubt and uncertainty as part of their mental patterning – sadly that’s many of us. Holding these poses is even more potent as it teaches us to work through the very real and tremendous challenges that life will throw in our path.
Another yoga approach to build our willpower and resolve is working with the breath. Breathing in structured ways facilitates a richer experience and begins to break down mental patterning. The Sages taught that how we breathe is a direct reflection our mind and thereby working with our breath we affect our mind; we breakdown mental patterning. This helps us to be more discerning in our lives and make different and better choices. The science of breath is not well understood in the physical approach of western yoga, unfortunately.
Yogis also know that by building our inner fire we become a force in life. We build our fire by using techniques that are abdomen-focused including twists, forward folds, back bends on the belly, agni sara, uddiyana bandha, specific kriyas, mudras and meditations, and pranayama, for example. It is the building of fire that is really one of the bigger goals of practice, if this is not happening is usually means that wrong approach to practice is being used – too much physicality and not enough rest and meditation, for example.
One area that certainly builds resolve – and is a huge challenge for many – is the discipline of committing to daily practice. Yoga done for a short period every day will begin to affect us favourably almost immediately. One need not attend group classes many times a week, and in fact that may be overdoing it. I recommend starting one’s daily practice with 10-15 minutes of physical practice, followed by some basic pranayama (alternate nostril breathing is always a good choice), and then a simple meditation (So Ham mantra with focus on the navel). A commitment to this approach will assure your some real positive outcomes.
Build your resolve, build your life. You are worth it!