What we think, we become, and the more awareness we can develop of our own thoughts, then the more we can truly begin to shift our behavior. Our thoughts have immense power over how we perceive the world, act toward others, and even feel about ourselves. Changing how you think can truly get to the root of your mental and physical imbalances, facilitating a profound transformation in your life.
In this article, we will explore the power of your thoughts, how this relates to yoga therapy, and how you can begin to change your thoughts. Remember, this process takes time, so start small and let’s take this first step together by diving into this material!
How Do Our Thoughts Influence Our Behavior?
How we think directly impacts how we act. Essentially everything that we see in the world is filtered through our internal system of perception, ultimately resulting in the creation of certain thoughts and emotions. Each person’s perception filter can be different, meaning that the same event can cause different thoughts and feelings in different people.
We often get easily distracted by background thoughts running through our subconscious mind. These thoughts and emotions may be influencing us without us even realizing it! But we have a choice to let these thoughts distract us or not. Suffering and difficult events are a part of life; we all go through them. But where we can choose is how we understand, internalize, and make meaning out of this suffering. We can choose to recreate our pain (often called the “second arrow” in Buddhism), or we can choose a different path.
Yoga Therapy: Calming the Habit Patterns of the Mind
The core essence of yoga is influencing the habitual thought patterns in the mind. In the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, yoga is defined as “yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ” in Sanskrit, which roughly translates to mean that yoga is the calming of the fluctuations of the mind. These fluctuations are the thoughts that disturb us, creating waves internally that set off a cascading reaction throughout our entire being.
The more that we can build an awareness of this process of perception all the way to reaction, the more control we can have over these fluctuations and begin to calm the waters of the mind. Through yoga therapy techniques, you can gradually learn how to develop mindful awareness of your thoughts, observe them without judgment, and choose a different reaction than you may have previously selected.
How Changing My Thoughts Changed My Life
In my own life, I have experienced firsthand the power of our thoughts and how they influence our perceptions, emotions, and behaviors, ultimately keeping us stuck in the loop of suffering. The clearest example of this was when I was leaving my abusive marriage.
As I was beginning the process of leaving my ex-husband, I dove deeper into yoga and mindfulness practices as my life raft through this tumultuous time. I began to realize that I had a highly negative internal voice. Essentially, I was constantly abusing myself! Even though I was in the process of leaving a domestic abuse situation, I had actually internalized these thought patterns and was creating a deeper negative view of myself.
After developing an awareness of this critical and negative inner voice, I decided to do an experiment and explore replacing these negative thoughts with positive thoughts and affirmations. At first, it felt really silly to be using positive affirmations when I did not believe or feel anything positive about myself. But after a while, my self-confidence and self-esteem grew, and I began to internalize these affirmations within myself.
This simple shift in my thoughts was a huge savior in giving me the strength to leave my abusive marriage and start a profound healing process from domestic violence. The tools of yoga therapy gave me the ability to see my thought patterns and radically change my life for the better. Even to this day, I continue to work at unrooting these unhealthy and harmful thought patterns, gaining a better awareness of my inner self.
5 Ways to Begin Changing Your Thoughts with Yoga Therapy
1. Start with the Breath
For many people, it can feel challenging to immediately start observing their thoughts with mindful awareness. Instead, it is often easier to begin by observing your breath and developing the tools of mindfulness through this avenue. Mindful breath awareness is an excellent way to build mindfulness inside of yourself and start to learn how to observe without judgment. The breath can also be an insight into the state of your inner mind – often, when we are anxious, the breath increases in rate, whereas when we are calm, the breath slows down and deepens.
2. Develop Mindful Awareness of Your Thoughts
Throughout your day, when you notice a negative thought coming into your head, take a moment to pause and observe the thought with a little bit of distance. This space between your thoughts and your reactions gives you the opportunity to go a bit deeper and explore whether this thought is actually true and consciously decide what to do next. Rather than acting from unconscious instincts, you can begin to make more conscious choices in your life and gain mastery over your mind.
3. Notice the Sensations in Your Body
Another way to explore a deeper layer underneath your thoughts is to connect to the sensations in your body. Through body scanning meditation practices, you can begin to develop a mindful awareness of these sensations, which are often referred to as a window into the unconscious and subconscious mind. Connecting sensations with your thoughts can help you understand your emotions on a deeper level. For example, when you notice an anxious thought, you may also check in with your body and notice a constriction in your throat or your chest, which can give you a deeper insight into what you are really feeling underneath these thoughts.
4. Practice a Daily 5-Minute Meditation
Building mindful awareness of your thoughts takes continuous effort and training. This task can sound overwhelming, but it is important to remember that you can start small! Even just a 5-minute daily meditation practice has the potential to radically transform your life. I like to start my morning with a brief meditation, but some people prefer practicing meditation in the evenings after work or closer to their bedtime to help clear their minds and relax after a stressful day.
5. Deepen Into Your Higher Power
Underneath all of these practices, it is essential to remember that there are also many things in life that we cannot control. As Reinhold Niebuhr famously said in his serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Gaining awareness of our thoughts and of ourselves can show us the difference between the things that we can change and the things that we cannot. And when we come to accept this and surrender this to a higher power, we can be relieved of the anxiety of control and rest in the support and guidance of something greater that is beyond our comprehension. However you may define this higher power, the core essence of this teaching in yoga is to remember that there is something in this universe beyond what we can understand, and we must release into this higher force, particularly when things feel unmanageable.
Get to the Root of Your Thought Patterns with Somatic Yoga Therapy
Changing your thoughts doesn’t happen overnight; it takes a constant awareness of yourself that builds over time. The ultimate goal of yoga is to teach you how to gain this perspective of yourself and begin to control these thought patterns in your mind. Gradually, you will learn how to put distance between yourself and your thoughts, staying rooted in your inner Self.
In my somatic yoga therapy sessions, I help you get in touch with your subconscious mind by tuning into the sensations of your body and learning the tools of mindfulness to gain a deeper understanding of the workings of your mind. Together, I can support you in unrooting harmful thought patterns and take powerful steps on your journey towards profound transformation. Schedule a free intro call to learn more about how somatic yoga therapy can change your thoughts and your life!