Samskaras and Neuroplasticity

Burning Samskaras

Dissolve Thought, Emotion, and Behavioral Patterns

Does your family put your spiritual practice to the test? 

Have you been making leaps and bounds through your yoga or meditation practice – feeling better day to day, learning to take a breath in the challenging moments, and ultimately living life more freely from a place of joy? The Yoga practice helps us move in that direction, and then we go back home for a holiday gathering with our family and suddenly we are right back where we started. Why is that? What is it about family, caretakers, or being in the home we grew up in that pulls us back into our old patterns of thought, emotions, or behaviors? According to the yoga tradition, it’s because of Samskaras.

What ARE Samskaras?

A samskara is often translated as the groove or pattern of the mind and directly relates or corresponds with our actions or behavior. Samskaras begin forming at the very moment we step into our bodies. Our parents, or the ones who raise us, largely play a major role in the forming of our Samskaras. When we were children our lens of perception was colored for us; we were taught to see the world the way our parents, teachers, and society saw it. At some point in our journey, we woke up and began to self-reflect, recognizing that perhaps the lens we’ve been looking through is not the truth. Let’s look at this lens of perception as a window. The window has a lifetime of dirt and grime, and the yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry practice help to clean the window little by little, allowing us to see life more clearly so we can experience it as it is rather than as we believe it to be.

The analogy I use in the video below is another way of understanding Samskaras. I explain that Samskaras create grooves in the mind like the groove of a river in a mountain side. The river carves out the earth little by little through repetition and time and eventually becomes powerful. Our mind  (thoughts, emotions, beliefs, perception) is exactly like the river. Starting when we are young, the mind begins to look for like and unlike experiences and collecting them as beliefs and perception. This helps us to determine safe and unsafe situations, and forms our communication: “When I cry, caretaker brings me food,” or perhaps “when I cry, no one responds.” Through repetition, these observations become our perception or the grooves of our mind. We may then form the opinion that it is good or bad or effective or ineffective to express ourselves a certain way. We form beliefs about others and the world we live in.

Now that you have begun your yoga practice, you have likely begun the process of burning away your Samskaras. How do you know? If you are behaving differently: more patient, kind, respectful, loving, emotionally stable or vulnerable, light-hearted, joyful, etc. Burning Samskaras or old patterns allows us to live in the now, where the magic of life exists, and the world feels exciting and new again.

WHY DOES BEING AROUND FAMILY MAKE ME FEEL LIKE I HAVE NOT GOTTEN ANYWHERE?

Because the vast majority of Samskaras were formed at a very young age, they have had a lifetime to get stronger. Like the river that has been digging its way into the earth, the longer it has been flowing, the deeper the groove. The samskaras that were formed as a child are triggered by experiences that are closest to the ones that formed them in the first place – typically your parents, siblings, or caretakers. Or you might be most triggered by people in your life that most resemble them which could be your boss, teacher, in-laws, friend, etc. You may have been working on yourself for quite some time, burning away the outer layers, only to show up at a family gathering or holiday dinner and notice your blood boiling, ready to argue, run away or just plain give up. There is a saying that goes something like, “if you think you are enlightened, visit your family.” How perfect that statement is as a reminder that yoga is a practice, not a one-time product purchase to solve your issues. We need to continuously stoke the fire of transformation to experience freedom from our Samskaras.

Burning Samskaras

Burning Samskaras is recognized in modern psychology as Neuroplasticity – our brain’s capacity to change our neurological patterning. While much of our childhood patterns are formed without our awareness, it is awareness that allows us to burn what no longer serves us. Awareness is also what allows us to choose how we want to feel, act, think, and exist in this world. Awareness is a state of being that floods our conscious mind when we are present in the here and now. Have you ever watched yourself think a thought, or witnessed the sensations of your body, or decided to take a breath instead of reacting? The part of you that is aware of thoughts, emotions, and actions is awareness–and awareness is something you can strengthen just like a muscle. How do you strengthen it? The 4 main practices are Yoga, Meditation, Breath Work (pranayama), and Self-Inquiry. Self-Inquiry is also the result of the first three practices, as it is our “awareness” that creates the inquiry. Self-inquiry is the process of asking yourself questions, observing your thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns, and reflecting upon your actions and reactions. Through repetition, your awareness builds strength and awareness slowly burns away old patterns. Literally, the brain forms new neurological “wiring” which changes the way we act or react in any given situation.

Anchoring

There is much that is beyond our control such as life circumstances and outcomes of our actions, but what we do have control of is the inner landscape of our mind and our actions. That might seem like a large task, and it does take time and routine practice of yoga and meditation (see Elements of Mastery for both), however, there is one thing you can do right now to help you maintain your ground when you step back into the all too familiar family dinner or holiday celebration. 

“Create an Anchor” This is what I call having an intention, but I use the imagery of an anchor so when the seas get rough, you hold tight to the ocean floor and stay deeply grounded in your intention. The questions to form your intention are

  1. How do you want to feel?
  2. How do you want to act? 

Anchor yourself into the answers to these questions by asking yourself how you want to feel/act the moment you start to feel your blood boil under the surface of your skin or when you just want to run or hide. When you notice yourself falling back into your old patterns, hold tight to your anchor and do not let go. You may need to excuse yourself and take a few breaths or do a quick sun salutation, and that is ok! Be compassionate, the river is incredibly strong but you are indeed stronger.

Elements of Mastery

The most in-depth online yoga immersion offered by Matt Giordano. This immersion contains several full-length workshops focusing on how the body relates to nature’s elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, & Space. In addition to deepening your physical practice, you will learn anatomy, adjustments, and the approach to Mastery!

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find your seat

3 BEST SEATED MEDITATION POSTURES

Find Your Seat: 3 Ways to Sit without Knee, Hip or Back Pain!

Find Your Seat

Let’s go over the 3 best seated meditation postures and find out which one is right for you. The deep benefits of seated meditation are well known to have been experienced by many. On the other hand, people around the world find the practice to be inaccessible because they can’t sit comfortably for more than a minute. This is true for me, even to this day! No matter how open my hips are, or how strong my core and back are, if I try and sit on the ground for an extended period of time one of my legs will fall asleep or I will at the least just be uncomfortable. If you have the same experience, you will find these particular postures to be very supportive!

THE CHALLENGES

Why is it challenging to sit? There are a host of reasons why we might find it difficult to sit on the ground – perhaps primarily because we just don’t do it. Sitting in a chair does not allow our hips to go through their full range of motion each day and as a result, our back and hip flexors don’t develop the strength needed to keep us upright. Yoga can serve as an amazing practice to redevelop the capacity to sit more efficiently although it won’t happen overnight – which is why it’s necessary to check out the 3 postures in the video and photos below, so you can sit comfortably on the ground while you are working on the long term hip-opening journey.

Trying to re-pattern our body takes repetitive practice. As with any other skill, you can only learn from doing it. That is why I created a 12 class immersion to help you feel better, sit better, and establish a meditation practice. MOVE•BREATHE•RELEASE helps you increase flexibility of the hips, strengthen your back muscles for better posture, teach you breathwork techniques, and gives you the tools for mental and emotional clarity and freedom. Meditation requires guidance just like yoga, and I guide you in all 12 classes so you feel safe, confident, and inspired with each practice.

MOVE•BREATHE•RELEASE

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Is Meditation Calming?

When Most people begin a meditation practice they expect it to have the results that everyone preaches; calm mind, relaxing, stress reducing. While some people do experience these results right away, others may experience the opposite. In weight lifting you must build a foundation of strength before you can move on to heavy compound movements, and establishing this foundation can at times be challenging and discouraging. Meditation is very much the same, the practice of it might feel like you are lifting heavy weights for your mind and as a result, you might initially only experience the challenge of it. With repetition, your mind will get stronger. You will be able to focus longer and the results will come faster!

On top of it, if you are physically uncomfortable when practicing meditation you are not likely to magically walk away feeling calmer. This is why it’s important to find a seat by selecting from one of the 3 best seated meditation postures.

VIDEO TO FIND YOUR SEAT

CHOOSE FROM THE 3 BEST SEATED MEDITATION POSTURES

Assess your hips

Each of us has our own movement patterns which cause some muscles to be stronger, some weaker, some are tight, some are not, etc. We also have different bone structures that will make some positions easier than others. Finding a comfortable seat is one of the most important aspects of a seated meditation posture. If you are uncomfortable, it is very hard to move the mind beyond the discomfort of the body. This is why I have provided three options for seated meditation postures. Go through each and ask yourself which one is most sustainable. Keep in mind there is no perfect seated posture for meditation, there is only the best one for you and that is the one you feel most comfortable in and that also allows you to stay awake and present.

“3 Best Seated Meditation Postures” Detailed Break Down

best seated meditation posture

Option 1 - Bhadrasana (Hero's Pose)

My personal favorite seated posture for those who have tighter outer hips and inner thighs as it requires little flexibility in these areas. It presents a challenge for those with tight quads and shin muscles. Using blankets and blocks can help alleviate these challenges. I would suggest warming up and stretching the thighs and ankles prior to working on this posture. In the above video, I go over a twisted thigh stretch and a seated posture on heels. If these postures prove to be too challenging after a warm-up, then this posture is likely to cause discomfort during a seated meditation.

best cross legged seated meditation posture

Option 2: Cross Legged

Sukhasana, the so-called “easy seat” – an ironic title, as it can be incredibly misleading. For those with open inner thighs, hip flexors, and outer hips this can be an easy posture indeed, but if that is not the case for you then you’ll definitely want to use props. Using the right amount of blankets and block support can make this posture easier and more accessible.

seated meditation posture on chair with props

Option 3: On Chair with Blocks

In the video I show a seated option call sidasana, however, I wanted to offer one other one here. Sitting in a chair can seem like cheating, as it can be incredibly easy to get too relaxed in it. Here you will notice how I prepare the chair with blocks and a blanket and I sit on the edge of the seat so that I still used my back and hip flexors to keep me upright. Some level of muscle engagement is important to stay awake and present when meditating.

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  • Lifetime Unlimited Access to All  

How to Start Meditation

The best way to practice meditation, like anything else, is to have guidance. When I was younger, I struggled for years to meditate without the support of a teacher and mostly I became frustrated and lost in my thoughts. When I stumbled upon my teacher “Rudrani” she helped provide me with the tools and guidance to make meditation accessible and enjoyable. This is why I created the MOVE•BREATHE•RELEASE  to share with you the techniques that produce the intended results that so many talk about; peace of mind, inner freedom, focus, mental clarity, joy, equanimity, balance, etc.

From Body to Mind

One thing I noticed early on in my meditation practice was the discomfort of my body. I couldn’t focus my mind on anything when I was seated because I was distracted by my back, my knee, my neck, and so on. This realization led me to the physical practice of yoga. Through the yoga practice, I gained a heightened sense of awareness of my body. At first, this was almost a curse because I could feel everything – including my discomfort! Over time and practice, I gained a bit of mastery in my body, in that I could feel the discomfort and choose postures to better accommodate myself and release it. I suggest you choose from one of the 3 best seated meditation postures above and use it for now as your “go-to pose”. I also recommend you get to know the other two poses as well because you will find that on some days your “go-to” is just not the appropriate one for you.

The seated meditation practice became so much more enjoyable for me when I could extend my attention beyond the physical, knowing that I wasn’t causing damage by forcing myself to sit through knee or back pain. While I do believe that some pain in the body can be a result of mental projection, I also know firsthand that placing love and attention on the body can support the health of the mind.  There really isn’t a divide between brain and body – the mind is a collective of all our physical and emotional experiences. For sound mental health to be our primary state of being we must get to know ourselves on all levels and develop our awareness.

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Newsletter

When You Subscribe You Will Instantly Get Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts 
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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