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One of yoga’s gifts is the cultivation of witness consciousness. By teaching us to watch, with compassionate detachment, the fluctuations of our minds and bodies, yoga shows us that everything is always arising or dissolving.

We start with the breath and watch its fluctuations, its rise and fall in our bodies. Then we begin to extend our awareness to our bodies, and watch sensations rise and fall in them as we move through the poses. Another way to help us build awareness is to watch our thoughts and the attitude we bring to practice. By checking in with how we’re feeling when we sit in those first few opening breaths of class, we can set a baseline of tone or attitude that we can compare against once practice is over, and then see again the cycle of arising and dissolving.

To see everything as either arising or dissolving helps us when life takes its inevitable challenging turns. Cultivating witness consciousness and compassion towards yourself on your mat can help you bring this same watchfulness to your life. Instead of being caught in the drama of things ending or the exultation of things beginning, what would happen if you took an attitude of equanimity and allowed things to simply settle into place?

For many of us, the idea of letting go of control is very threatening. We have agendas that want fulfilling and we have invested in things turning out such and such a way. When things don’t go as we hoped, many of us suffer twice: once for not getting what we wanted, and twice for having our expectations thrashed. And yet we keep fantasizing into the future and sowing the seeds of our disappointment.

When meeting the edge of a challenging yoga pose, our teachers usually tell us to slow down, approach with respect and awareness, breathe, and feel. Witness consciousness is doing this before every big and small decision, before each potential argument, before each potential disappointment, before each conversation, before we deepen into another yoga pose, in short, always! If we can pause long enough to not barge ahead when a mindful step is a more skillful choice, we may find the rough edges of our lives becoming smoother. Instead of a series of ups and downs, we can learn to navigate ourselves right down the middle, riding the edge with grace and mindfulness.

~Post written by Lola Rephann

Lola teaches at Reflections Wednesday nights at 6:30pm (Foundations 1), Fridays at 6pm (Yin Yoga) and Sundays at 12:30 (Quick Fix)