Maya and Samskaras, the original blend of Yoga & Psychology
Two of my favorite overlaps are the concepts of Maya and Samskaras. This is because the ancients knew a thing or two about what it means to be conscious and intentional about living a full and embodied life.
October 18, 2022
Guest Post By Stacy Reuille-Dupont
Yoga has a lot to say about the study of the mind
Over the last year, I have been diving back into yoga. It has been a long time since I looked at the ancient teaching on Maya and Samskaras. Last year I chose to really deepen my understanding of yoga philosophy and re-read:
- Light on Life, Light on Yoga – by: B. K. S. Iyengar
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Sutra translations
- The Hatha Yoga Pradipika – by: Muktibodhanand
In my world of somatic psychology, the research on yoga is flowing. I attended the United States Body Psychotherapy Association conference in 2018 and attended a number of sessions on the interplay between yoga and psychotherapy. All this exploration brought me back to why I have never given up on this practice.
Over the years I have been a student, a yoga teacher, a yoga enthusiast, and sometimes even considered quitting the practice for the newer shiner object in the group exercise world. But I never did. Sometimes I did not even know why I continued to practice. Sometimes it felt flat, other times energizing. I continued to pay attention. Then in early 2018, my friend and yoga teacher, Sarah Klein asked me to work with her on a project to explain the psychological overlays of ancient yoga wisdom.
The path was set and we began a journey into what yoga is and why yoga works.
Although I think the answer to this question is vast, I do have a better understanding of why yoga works and why it works differently than other avenues of fitness. I began to look at yoga from the orientation of psychology. When I was 5 I asked my mom why people do what they do. She laughed and said because they do. I decided I would figure that out. I have found my yoga study to be similar. A big undertaking with so much possibility that determining exactly why becomes muddled. It gets lost. The concrete answers become less fascinating than all the interplays between possibilities. This is the marker of a great system. Something so simple, yet so vast at the same time.
As I continue to read, relate, and connect the dots between these two worlds I am amazed at the wisdom ancient teachings of Yoga brought to the world. I find myself drawn to understanding Maya and Samskaras the most. No surprise as I address them both in my psychology practice every day.
Understanding Maya and Samskaras
Maya are the lenses we wear to view the world – the many lenses (there are A Lot!).
As a psychologist, I work to help people see that what they might think is not always reality. That they can change their perception and shift their emotional states for something more positive and suited to them.
In yoga, we come to the mat to explore these lenses.
- How do I talk to myself about my practice?
- What is my ability to maintain the pose?
- What is my role in the room with others?
We overtly ask ourselves to challenge our belief patterns.
I see this work in other group exercise classes however the intention is different, the study much more narrow, and the focus shifted to aspects of being according to the class format. In yoga, we turn the lens away from how many reps, sets, and weights are lifted to the inner landscape of being. This self-study helps shift our view of ourselves in the world and our view of the way the world is. Thus, we have an opportunity to engage differently. We can begin to create the world we want with clarity versus the world we were handed through culture, community, and limiting self-beliefs. And it all happens through our embodied experience of being.
Samskaras are grooves, ruts, and habits.
They are the experiences and slights we have experienced in the past. They hook us, trigger us, and keep us stuck in old ruts repeating patterns of being over and over. These little knots are caught in our nervous system. They are part of our learning that says “danger, don’t do that again”. However, if we honestly look at them, often they are outdated old messages about a particular situation and not the one we are living in now. With study and careful attention to our experiences, we can release them and find new patterns to engage our lived experiences. Ones that are more healthy for us. Ones we want rather than what we got.
To me, the study of Maya and Samskaras is critical to creating your life vision
This is the message of yoga – it is all union and we are all one. Connected beyond what we can see yet individual in our experiences of self and others. This is the simplicity of yoga – we are all one. Yet the complexity of yoga – having an individual experience.
If you find this work interesting and want to join Sarah and I on a deeper study of The Integration of Yoga and Psychology, please do so to:
- Deepen your own practice
- Help your students and clients deepen their experiences of self, others, and spirit too.