We live in a society driven by consumer culture and we are constantly being told what we don’t have, what we should have and how we will be “happier” based on having or owning materialist things. We have all fallen victim to negative self thought caused by external and/or internal stimuli, and it is a constant challenge to not allow these unwanted stimuli to enter our minds and affect our bodies. When we are not in control of our thoughts, negative self thoughts can enter our minds easily causing internal imbalance which makes us to become emotional and vulnerable. This process can quickly turn into a vicious circle that can spin out of control bringing with it more serious consequences such as stress, hormonal imbalances and depression to name a few.
Our inability to control our thoughts and therefore our action is what can turn our relationships toxic, cause failures in our careers and illnesses in our bodies and minds. I have been fortunate enough to recognise this human trait within myself, and have always tried to make a conscious effort to be aware of my thoughts and my actions as a result of my thoughts. Our breath is directly connected to our being and Yoga is a practice of breath. Therefore through yoga practices I found relief and glimpses of achieving mind focus and clearing negative thoughts and energy.However it was not until recent learnings of Pranayama that I truly began to grasp this concept and learnt techniques to help me come closer to achieving purity of thought and clarity of mind.
Prana means vital energy (气qi in Chinese), and Yama means expansion. Therefore, it is through the expansion of the vital energy in our bodies where we can take our first steps to control our breaths and in turn our minds. Nadi Shodhana, also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing is a powerful practice to steady our breath, balance our hormones, clear toxins and infuse our bodies with more oxygen. Nadi Shodhana practiced over time can help reduce stress and anxiety, calm and rejuvenate the nervous system, increase concentration and foster mental clarity and an alert mind. By steadying our breath we take control of our breath and in turn we take control our minds.
Another powerful Pranayama I recently learnt is Kapalabhati, also known as Skull Cleansing. This breathing exercise helps oxygenate our bodies and decrease oxytocin. Prolonged practice of this pranayama can clear toxic thoughts. Kapalabhati also has physical benefits linked to weight loss and can improve blood circulation.
These two Pranayamas combined with several other Yoga exercises/routines such as the practice of gratitude, form an effective morning routine to be practiced daily to cleanse our minds and thoughts. This morning routine can help us let go of negative thoughts and achieve clarity of mind. These practices combined with regular Asana practice can help us achieve Saucha and Santosha, two of the five Niyamas of Yoga from the eight limbs of Yoga.
To have Saucha means to have purity of thoughts which challenges us to remove unnecessary burdens we have or carry. Through Pranayama cleansing, we remove the residue we have collected in our lives. Once our thoughts are controlled completely by ourselves, our thoughts can become pure and our minds can achieve clarity, and with this we become content with our lives. We become present in the moment as we look inward to ourselves. Through the practice of gratitude for every moment and experience, we can achieve contentment with the self. We project the thoughts we think, so when we are positive we will see the positives in others and in the world around us.
“From mental purity arises purity of the inner nature, cheerfulness, one-pointedness, control of the senses, and fitness for the vision of the self.” Patanjalie – The Yoga Sutras. With this quote in mind I set my intention to persevere and deepen my Yoga practice and look inwards and observe myself and my mind as I continue on my journey of self discovery and growth.