psychology, Yoga lifestyle

Back to basics with yoga

Yoga can sometimes look very fancy and challenging, with the most impossible poses that require great flexibility. But that’s not what yoga is about. For me, yoga is about looking deeper inside, about self-development, about finding freedom and balance in life. Going back to basics can in fact be much more challenging than trying to master an advanced pose.

The same applies to goals in life in general. Often, our life is full of new developments, with a busy schedule and many roles to fulfill. We are bombarded with information and driven by high expectations. We are asked to attend many events, to have a successful career, a happy family and an exciting social life. This can be fun, inspiring and energising, but it can also be exhausting. Moreover, caught up by all activities and running around all the time, we may drive away from who we truly are.

Finding your true self

Who am I?’ – that is actually a question that is central in yoga philosophy. And finding the answer to that question is not easy. It’s a life-long (or even longer) process. Going back to basics can be a way to reveal the answer, letting go of the tendency to go for more, better, forwards, just taking a step back to reflect. This is not a piece of cake, as the Western society is kind of obsessed with success and status. Eastern ways of thinking – including yoga philosophy – can teach us to slow down, to reflect, to peel off the layers that we’ve built throughout life. When we take a step back, and find stillness, we can connect to who we truly are, deep inside.

Repetition and reflection

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One way to do this is simply to practice some asanas that you know very well while doing yoga. If you’re a little bit experienced, the focus then shifts from doing the poses correctly to practicing with awareness. You can observe what is happening inside, in your body as well as in your mind. Every time you do the same pose, you will encounter different events, but also similar events. You will start seeing your own patterns. You will become aware of the processes inside. And then you can reflect: are these natural patterns, helping me to be balanced? Or have they resulted from learning experiences, habits that have become automatic?

Another way is to sit and just breathe, to meditate, and to be open for whatever presents itself. To practice non-reactivity, non-attachment, observing your thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations while realising it is not you. You are the observer. That is your true self, yoga philosophy says. What does it feel like, to connect to your self?

Connecting to nature

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And what about connecting to nature? Living in a natural environment has proven calming effects. My explanation is that people feel at ease in a natural environment, surrounded by everything that you need, without all the extra imagined safety that we grow up in. Human nature has developed over many millennia, and it’s barely a few centuries that we have started living in houses and using electricity. We haven’t adapted to this artificial environment yet, which is why being outdoors, out in the open, makes us feel much better. That’s where we belong.

A minimalist lifestyle

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Finally, going back to basics is something you can apply to your way of living. Have you surrounded yourself with luxury, things you don’t really need to survive? Probably, the answer is yes. It’s even nearly inevitable in the modern world – if you don’t use mobile phones or computers or the car or train, you are a rare exception. It’s a big challenge to go back to basics. You could try minimising the stuff in your house, the time you spend on the internet, the amount of food you eat. A good way to go back to basics for a while is to go camping or backpacking with just the necessary amount of things you need to live for a few weeks. Or to go on a budget. Whoever goes on such a journey, will realise how little they need to lead a fulfilling life.

In short, going back to basics can help us to feel who we really are and what matters in life. Practicing yoga with awareness to reflect on our own patterns and observing what happens on the inside may be helpful to develop a deeper understanding of yourself. In daily life, connecting with nature and working towards a minimalist lifestyle could also help you to find freedom. There’s not a lot you need for a fulfilling life – the most important things are those that are already there.

I was inspired by a very interesting book, Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, as well as by the teachings at Arhanta Yoga Ashram and trekking in the mountains (which is where I took the pictures used in this blog).

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