Are you Self-Conscious or Self-Aware?

Are you Self-Conscious or Self-Aware?

Consider for a moment two different practices.

Practice One: Sit up straight and take a deep breath. Notice how your body feels at this moment. Feel where your body is in contact with the ground or chair below you and how the gentle movements of the inhale and exhales roll through your body like a soft breeze. Allow your mind to rest on the rhythm of your breath for a moment and be at peace.

Practice Two: Sit up straight and take a deep breath. Think about if your deep breath was good or bad. Do you practice yoga? Should you be better at breathing, then you are? If you are in a room with others, do you think they will look at you funny if you sit up, close your eyes and take a deep breath? Feel how your breath moves through your body. Do you wonder where you should feel it? If you do notice it going to a particular space, is that good? Allow your mind to rest on the rhythm of your breath and be at peace. What if you can’t stay focused or be at peace right now. How does that make you feel?

The first practice is one of self-awareness. It requires that you become aware of your current state, paying attention to where you are in space and the way you are breathing.

This second practice is similar but much different than the first. What is the major difference? The second practice is a practice of being self-conscious. When we are self-conscious, we are attached to the wants, judgments, expectations, fears, and hopes of both ourselves and others around us. A self-conscious practice may seem, on the surface at least, that it is being done for you, but it is done for others.

Yoga is not a practice that is intended to be performed for others. It is a practice that is done for you to become more self-aware. It is a practice that allows you to look in on your current state, and become more comfortable in the complete understanding of the self.

It is entirely natural for both experiences to be part of your yoga. There are times when you are immersed in the pose so fully and attentively. You can follow your breath with your mind like a steady pendulum. Other times you may catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and compare your practice to another’s in the room. You may try to adjust your body differently or put in more effort when you see the teacher looking in your direction. These are common thoughts of the conceptual mind, and we all experience them.

That being said, we should use our practice as an opportunity to recognize the different states and begin to shift them from self-conscious to self-aware. Over time we will find ourselves less involved in self-conscious thoughts. This doesn’t mean they don’t happen but that they pass through the mind like sand through a sieve. At the same time, we start anchoring the mind to more self-aware thoughts giving us a more in-depth experience of both asana and life. Because what we do on our mats inevitably finds its way off.