What are your ruts?
Ruts, in Sanskrit – Samskaras, can be seen as habits or patterns. Like conditioning or ruts in the mud (like the ones in the picture), one can get stuck and have trouble getting out. Most likely, you have positive and negative ruts or patterns, but you may not be aware of all of them. Unlike the obvious rut in the mud, Samskaras, can be very subtle and often not visible to the eyes at all. Do you get irritated by certain people or situations? Do you have a certain way of moving your body while walking or in yoga? Do you cross your fingers, arms or legs the same way every time? Yes, even that is a rut. Remember, they’re not always negative, but they are very often ingrained and automatic.
The first step out
Like many things, the first step is to become aware. Notice when you react automatically or do something out of habit. Once you notice, you can decide to try something new or different. Both of these may be tricky (only if you choose to see it that way). Reactions can be very quick and it takes presence to catch them. On the mat, I like to try getting into postures in new ways or with my eyes closed to feel my way in and out. I cross my fingers, arms and legs different each time to keep me present and out of imbalance. I focus on how I move, breathe and think while on the mat to become aware of when I step into a rut or step out of the present moment. You can try things in a new way as a preemptive way of noticing when and where you want to fall back into the rut.
What if you fall back in?
You catch yourself and/or get up and try again. Like learning to walk or practicing anything… there may be many attempts. Like the analogy of the car driving in a rut in the mud, it’s easier to follow the path already created than to create a new one, but it can be done. A lot of the time, a reaction to a present situation is more to do with conditioning than the actual situation. Notice if your reactions tend to be similar across situations for instance, like the way you cross your arms the same every time.
Every time you notice a rut, you get to choose a new response. This is a type of practice like finding postures on your mat. It may take some time (again… depending how you choose to see it) and some practice. If you can catch yourself before the automatic reaction, you give yourself a chance to make a new path or choice. You can replace your negative patterns with positive ones. Then at some point you can replace your positive patterns with freedom from the ruts of your life. Freedom is being able to choose consciously your actions, responses and ways of being, moving and thinking rather than following an old pattern or rut.
Start this practice on your mat and see how it follows you into your life. Physical movement aids mental and emotional movement. Make it like a game and have fun with it. Yoga Nidra is also a great practice for changing patterns. You can find a recording in the last blog post or join me Sunday, October 25th for a full practice. More details here.
I love supporting others in their self-care to find a comfort zone (different from a rut) that feels safe to come back to when life "makes" you or you choose to step out of it for growth. Join me on the mat anytime, reach out with questions or let me know what you've found.