Yoga carries a name for the ‘buttons’ that we all possess; the ones that when ‘pushed’ result in almost formulaic responses from us. That word is Samskara.
The Sanskrit word Samskara can be broken into two parts: Sam which means “complete” or “joined together”, and Kara which means “action” or “cause”. Thus Samskaras are the joined together cause and action that we carry in our mental, emotional, and physical bodies.
Our true selves are like a muddy, yet smooth road. Whenever we come upon a situation or event that arouses our attachment or aversion, we find ourselves at a crossroads. If we act, or fail to act, out of that state of attachment or aversion, the action (for even inaction is considered an action) becomes karmic. That karma creates a Samskara in the mental, emotional, and physical body. It is like a rut is formed in the soft, muddy road. Once the rut is there, it lies in wait for another situation or event to trigger it. When this happens, attachment or aversion arise again. Since there is already a rut in the road, it becomes easier to react in the same manner, easier to fall into the rut. Each time we succumb to the rut, the Samakara becomes deeper, more pronounced. The button becomes larger and more sensitive.
In order to release Samskaras from the mental, emotional, and physical bodies, and to make the muddy road smooth again, we must become consciously aware of the Samskara’s presence. In doing so, we see when the button is being pushed. We see the attachment or the aversion that accompanies the button. And we are able to choose whether or not to allow that attachment or aversion to be the motivation for our response in the situation.
One of the most important yogic practices for learning to release Samskaras is meditation. Meditation brings subconscious thought patterns to our conscious awareness. But meditation also slows the thought patterns down so that it is easier to catch those patterns in ‘flight’ through the mind.
Physical yoga practice also aids the release of Samskaras since they are also held within the physical body. In fact, if you have ever experienced a sudden release of emotions (sadness, joy, anger, etc.) while in the midst of a yoga asana practice, what you are actually experiencing is the partial or complete release of a Samskara. The emotions are simply the signature of the Samskara that you have been carrying within.
Kavita Maharaj is the owner of Red Door Yoga® and the director of The Red Door Yoga School® in Lantzville. She can be reached at 250-390-9367 or through www.reddooryoga.ca for questions.