You don’t have to attend many yoga classes before you hear the word samskara. Yoga Journal defines it as a blend of two Sanskrit terms: sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). A samskara can be a repeated pattern of thinking or acting. The more you repeat those thoughts and deeds, the more ingrained they become. The end result? You find yourself in a rut.
It’s probably a lot easier to understand how you got into these patterns than how to break them. That’s where inspiration comes in. And, inspiration starts with clarity. Before you can look up and over the rut to find a better path, you have to clear away the circular thinking that got you into these negative routines.
As you ready yourself for practice, set an intention of practicing with a clear, focused mind. Turn your eyes inward and concentrate on seeing new possibilities for each aspect of your breath work and for each asana. Rather than directing your breath or your body, allow your physical form to “fill out” each pose—using your breath to stretch on the inhale, strengthen on the exhale. Take advantage of your teacher’s suggestions for ways to vary poses you know well and let that inspire you to try different approaches to reaching your goals.
Being creative doesn’t require a set of paints or a pen. Asking your body to do things that are unexpected, from standing on your hands to balancing sideways in Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), changes your physical perspective. This can be a great way to break out of the “I can’t” mentality that comes with the frustration of feeling stuck or not finding an immediate solution to a problem.
Many yoga poses require you to challenge your ideas of what you can and can’t do and find out just how much more capable you are than you think. When you were starting out, every pose was exciting because it was new. With each class, you built on that foundation, using the sequences as inspiration to try more, to expand and to grow. All those poses you looked at once and thought were impossible are becoming (or are) now part of your practice. Who says you can’t balance upside down? Can’t twist into Garudasana (Eagle Pose)? At some point, either within yourself or based on a suggestion from someone else, you were inspired to attempt to fly or flip your heels over your head. Recognizing and acting on that inspiration probably flipped a lot more than heels. It flipped a switch that ignited the engine of change in your thoughts and actions.
So, when you’re looking for a way to get creative or to be the change you’d like to see in the world, try these poses to help you find inspiration:
Benefits: This pose stretches the quadriceps and back. It's great for runners, and for those doing backbend poses.
How it's done: Lie on your stomach, then raise yourself to your elbows. Bend your right leg and grasp the top of the foot with right hand. Your left hand should be perpendicular to your body, laying flat on the mat. Position your right hand so that your thumb is facing away from you. Slowly apply pressure to the foot as it stretches your thigh. Keep your torso straight. Hold pose, deepening the stretch as you are able. Repeat with your other leg.
Benefits: This pose opens your chest, helping you open your heart.
Benefits: This pose helps to strengthen your wrists, arms, shoulders, obliques, and core while improving balance.
How it's done: Begin in standing pose and bend your knees down into a deep squat, keeping your knees together. Twist to the side and place your hands on the floor, shoulder-distance apart, and fingers pointing forward. Lift your knees as high as possible on your arm. Bend forward and find balance as your feet float off of the floor.
Play Around. In your home practice, shake up the sequence of poses or try a different pose. Think about how that makes you feel. Find a group of like-minded yogis who’d like to practice in the park or along the river. Go deep into the woods and inhale the sweet earthy smells as you practice. On your next walk, look around as if you had never seen or smelled anything on that before. Observe the shapes of the leaves, the contrast of the foliage with the blue sky, the fragrances around you.
Use a mantra. As you practice yoga, remind yourself that there are more options than you think. A mantra like “I can see choices” or “I am inspired” might be a good one.
As with so much in yoga, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how you can get inspired. But, taking a different approach, even to a familiar practice, can help you find your muse. You are the artist of your own life and your canvas is yours to paint as you will.
Featured Yogis: @michelle_yogogirls & @debby_yogogirls