Yoga Rockford: Reflecting on yoga

By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we see a reflection. That reflection is a compilation of our outer self: our body, the room around us, the clothes we wear, and in any given moment, it may please or disgust us.

Our minds connect to that outer image in relation to memories of the past or thoughts of the future, and minor changes may disturb or agitate us. But, what happens if we close our eyes, separating from the outer image of ourselves, and begin to really experience the truth of our self in each moment? How can we begin to learn to see our reflection from within? This is the process of yoga.

Yoga, Sanskrit for “union,” is the merging or aligning of our inner self (purusa) with our outer nature (prakrti). Prakrti is like the outer reflection in the mirror, always changing, but supplying the needed energies and elements to live in and interact with the world. Purusa is the internal quality of every being: peace, happiness and stability, unchanged by the world around us, but typically forgotten in our daily distractions. The work of yoga begins to teach us how to use prakrti better, by choosing a path that leads consciousness toward clarity and freedom, instead of continuing on a path of attachment and disturbance.

Most of our lives are spent identifying with and attaching to the impermanence of nature. In this attachment to things that are ever-changing, we create a state of constant distraction and agitation on some level or another. Through the eight-limbed practice of yoga, we can begin to shut down the avenues of false identification with our outer self and begin to reflect back on our one true nature.

This process of reflection must start with the gross outer body and move toward the more subtle internal experience. We must become aware of and begin to deal with our attachments and begin to let go of the “story” of who we are and what we are in comparison to others and external views. These attachments create clouds in our consciousness and keep us from seeing our own truth in each moment.

We need the attentiveness of yoga to begin the process of discovery. Through asana (physical posture), pranayama (regulation and awareness of the breath) and pratyahara (inward turning of the senses), we are given tangible ways to focus the mind inward. Practicing single-focused attention on any task instead of submitting to the usual distractions, our consciousness quiets, and we catch glimpses of the purusa within. As we clear the clouds through this connection of body, mind and breath, we focus more deeply in and begin to see a clearer reflection.

Over time, the glimpses of purusa begin to solidify into a greater awareness both inside and out. Single-focused inward attention becomes multi-dimensioned experience of life. Consciousness clears and opens up to all possibility, reflecting a life of full potential.

For me, yoga is a constant journey and adventure. Through growing awareness and reflection, I am more often and more fully able to experience the world and the people around me as a constantly-changing phenomenon. Within that change, I am also changing, and in those moments that I don’t attach or cling to what I think things should be or could be or would be, I can see things as they are. My inner purusa sits and smiles, constantly shining the light from within…just waiting for me to get out of the way, clear the clouds from my consciousness and bask in its reflection!

For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit or call (815) 968-9642.

From the June 30-July 6, 2010 issue

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