We all have habits both on and off the mat. Some of us are Grade A fidgeters when we hit our first downward facing dog. Others are vinyasa diehards, and take every single chaturanga. In our practice, it is helpful to take a step back and examine our deeply engrained patterns, or samskaras.
Our samskaras can be actions we regularly choose, or thoughts we think over and over and over again. These grooves that we find ourselves in can be helpful or detrimental to our growth. When we use our practice to check in rather than check out, our yoga mat can act as a mirror. It can illuminate the paths we often choose, and show us new paths to tread.
Our habitual practice can feel comfy and familiar, but this can be deceptive. For example, many hyper-mobile students leak their chest down towards the floor in downward facing dog. This can put a lot of strain on the shoulders, which could eventually be injurious. This downward facing dog feels like home to me, but it is something I need to be aware of every single time I step onto my mat. With awareness and intention, these physical habits can slowly start to shift into something more sustainable. When we are aware of our habits, we can decide which ones are helpful and which ones are detrimental.
Our habits on the mat are only the tip of the iceberg. These samskaras creep their way into our relationships, our jobs, and color our decisions. We may not always enjoy what we discover and off our mats. Once we spot these patterns, it helps to look at them with a compassionate eye. Know that you are doing your best. Simply becoming aware opens us up a to world of possibility and freedom.