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Yoga teaches us that we are students and we are being moulded by the divine. Events happen so that we can be moulded into a better person. When we are faced with a difficult situation, we are being given an opportunity to learn. However sometimes we do not learn. Instead, we develop a negative emotional reaction that becomes habitual. Then we look for ways to relieve ourselves from the emotional negative memory and this can lead to addiction. For example we may have an emotional problem, the mind resists and does not move; we feel we have no strength or will. We take a drink. The negative feeling begins to consume us so that we have even less will, less strength, less discrimination. We just drop our hands down in despair and say ” what is the point of struggling? What’s the point of trying to be a good person? What’s the point of disciplining and controlling anything? I’m going to drink myself to oblivion.” Once there is a tendency towards self-destruction, it is easily repeated and it becomes a habit. And even if we reach a point where the negative memory has faded and we are drinking less, guess what? There will be another difficult situation that confronts us. That is how life is. And because we emotionally crashed the first time and reached for something external to support us- our addiction- we are likely, in the face of this new crisis, to follow the same path of addiction.

In yoga we do not let ourselves collapse. We train ourselves not to collapse. In yoga, when we hold a posture, we hold it and continue to hold it. And though we may resent our teacher, we hold the posture, breathing and relaxing into it even though we may want to do the exact opposite. Holding our body in a yoga posture helps us to learn to hold our emotions and our mind.

If we practice self discipline and do not indulge in every sensual pleasure that tempts us, we become stronger. Yoga trains the mind to become stronger, more balanced and better able to adapt- flexible, in other words. We train the body to be flexible because when it is flexible it is able to adapt and hold and balance and this helps the mind also to be strong. The physical asanas are an important aid in building a strong flexible mind.

In yoga, we use the word samskara. Samskara means impression. It can be described as a mental scar that leaves an impression in the mind creating a deep groove.

Another technique is to keep ourselves busy, which will take the mind away from addiction. To keep busy, to keep concentrated is a very good way to stay out of trouble. When the mind wanders, it receives all kinds of influences from the surrounding environment. The imagination starts to play. We develop all kinds of anxieties and fears. Keep busy. Busy means concentrated, not stressed. In other words, we use the method of conscious concentration of the mind. A good way to concentrate consciously is to use mantras. Mantras are pure vibrational sounds that invoke the divine.

Mantras are wonderful tools to replace negative thought patterns. Repeating a mantra when a negative thought arises, allows positive samskaras to develop. The mind runs smoothly on the beautiful mantra groove, with no opportunity to slip back into the previous addictive pattern.

The last part of this article will be posted next week!