The Purpose of Yoga: Building Self Image

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The Purpose of Yoga: Building Self Image

yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Many times, Yoga teachers refer to the inner self or the observer from within. In a Yoga training session, you may be instructed to observe without judgment, but how can we stop judging? We judge things all day long.  If you drive a car, you are judging timing, distance, and speed. In this case, judging is a matter of life and death, which concerns you, other drivers, and pedestrians. You have to judge, whether you like it or not, but you are told not to judge yourself in a Yoga class or during a meditation session.

Who do we judge the most harshly in the course of a typical day?  For most of us, self-criticism takes up a large part of the day. We call ourselves uncomplimentary names. We do not forgive ourselves for past mistakes. We forget that we learn from mistakes and we create a negative self-image.  So how does the Yogi or Yogini get in touch with the inner being?  This is a journey toward spiritual clarity, where any person can travel. Look at yourself and observe the two sides of your inner being. You can use a mirror, but I would suggest you use a piece of paper and a pen.

During Yoga teacher training sessions, I have found that compiling lists allow interns to be impartial. We can classify our traits and qualities as negative or positive, but the big picture is not always so clear, because some negative qualities may bring about positive results. The opposite can also be said.  Some people may talk too much, but talking has put them in a prestigious position. Other people do not speak up enough, but they have always played it safe, and have no worries.

Karma is not always clear to see. Which trait or path is right, and which is wrong, is not always crystal clear, but when you design your list, you may want to have three categories. These categories are positive, neutral, and negative.  Neutral allows for a gray area, because life is not simply black and white. It may look that way to a child, but as a child learns more, each issue takes on more gray area.

When you classify your personal traits and qualities, you can see what you lack, and you can praise yourself for what you already have. It is most important to see what you have and appreciate it, before going after what you do not have.  Much energy is spent on acquiring things, but we should devote some of our energy toward appreciating what we have.

When you decide to make positive changes, you may want to focus on one change at a time. Most people cannot learn to appreciate themselves overnight, but you can be thankful for your good qualities and then go after a vital trait to build your self-image.  Yoga teaches us to listen from within and to appreciate what we have right now.

Side Notes for Yoga Instructors

When training Yoga teachers, exercises in self-appreciation have consistently developed stronger instructors.  This is not a cheerleading session, but an honest analysis of where each of us is at this moment.  Anyone can take some time to appreciate one’s self and to appreciate family, friends, loved ones, health and sanity.  Life is too short not to appreciate what we have.

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