‘Tis the season for reflection. The colder months that move us inward toward the winter solstice are a good time for nurturing “good” habits and eliminating or changing “bad” ones. In Sanskrit, the word samskara means inner patterns and memories, etched like grooves to create our mental, emotional and physical default settings. The prefix sam means well planned, and kara means “the action undertaken.” So, samskara literally means “the impression or impact of the action we perform with full awareness of its goals.” Each time we act or react, a subtle impression is deposited in our mindfield. Each time the action is repeated, the impression becomes stronger. Voilà – habits are formed.

Samskaras are powerful, which is why even though we know better we don’t always change the behavior. One of the myriad benefits of yoga is an effective way to change these grooves (“the way you do any one thing is the way you do all things”). We can eliminate old unwanted habits by leading our malleable brains and bodies toward new positive pathways and experiences through the yoga practices of:

  • intention (sankalpa)
  • practice (abhyasa)
  • intensity (tapas)
  • stillness (shani)
  • awareness (vidya)
  • fearlessness (abhaya)
  • vision (darshana)

In yoga we are often reminded to let go of the past and begin again. Yet, as we enter the season of giving and receiving, by first reflecting and then acting on the root causes of unproductive patterns will help us grow and change. Sewing new vital seeds into the fields of intention, practice and persistence will facilitate samskara’s internal rhythms to create freedom and a new vision for ourselves.

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