The Self as Healer
The Self as Healer
Living in a ‘quick fix’ world often comes at the expense of losing understanding of our self and our needs. Good health is paramount to how we feel about our self. Through modern medicine we expect cures for our ailments that will work instantly. We can suppress an illness through medication but often need to look at it from other angles to truly treat or overcome it. Have you ever noticed how one illness can lead to another until we have a whole list of ailments? Finding the source of an illness can be difficult if we look at the body in its ‘physical’ sense only. Many illnesses stem from the emotional layers of the body or can be products of our lifestyle, thought patterns and attitudes.
Samskara is a Sanskrit word that describes our behavioural patterns, our habits and conditioning. Samskaras are based on past experiences, actions and environment.
The ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’ teach us that the memory of our experiences continue to stay with us. Physical and mental associations to objects, people, situations remain. As the body holds unconscious memory, a samskara can be triggered without awareness. Phobias are sometimes an example of this.
When a negative samskara is triggered we may experience physical or mental agitation or negative thinking surrounding our situation. However sometimes our negative samskaras are so ingrained that we may barely recognise any unease in the body!
There are a couple of suggestions for reducing the effect of these unwanted patterns or associations. Recognition is the first step followed by:
Pacification – staying away from the trigger. This can be the first step to resolving the issue.
Engagement – confronting trigger and trying to resolve feelings around it. This may involve gradually replacing our old behavioural pattern with a new one.
When we practice yoga each asana we attempt is a new samskara for the body. So too working with pranayama begins a new samskara for the breath. It is a process we may need to continually repeat and one that can never be taken for granted as ‘complete’. Thus the practice of yoga can benefit our lives on levels we may not yet fully comprehend.
In ancient India, society was very physical in its daily existence so there was no need to master difficult postures to keep the body fit. Yoga was practised to counteract physical life by addressing the needs of the mind. It was understood that a balance was needed between body health and mind health for the whole human system to benefit. A healthy mind informs a healthy body.
Although our society may be very different from ancient India, our needs as humans are the same and the issue of health and mental balance remains. Perhaps we have become lazier at managing our own health because we rely on other sources to do it for us?
If we can look at our self as being a healer, we take on a responsibility for our own actions and lay positive and proactive foundations for a happy and well-lived life!
Jill Harris, Yoga Teacher at Kyo Yoga in the lineage of T. Krishnamacharya