Controlling Versus Mastering

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Whether we are working on our BODY in posture-based Hatha yoga or on our MIND in meditation-based Classical yoga, it is common for yogis to attempt to control their body or mind. It is common to become a slave to the poses instead of letting the poses to serve us as best as our body can receive in each moment. And it is common to try not to think while meditating which creates more mind restlessness in the process. Are you familiar with any of these common behaviors? If yes, how is it working for you?

What difference do you see between controlling and mastering your body and mind?

The chart below is part of a bigger chart that illustrates the historical foundational influences of Modern Yoga.

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In my own experience, trying to control the body brings about conflicts of interest between body parts and resistance creating excess tension. Mastering the body or mind includes working with them so all body-parts work in harmony with each other. Mastering the mind means being a witness of the activity of thinking without engaging with each passing thought.

Controlling limits our efficiency in whatever we do. Same as a controlling boss at work.

Mastering promotes the highest efficiency through cooperation. Same as a good boss at work.

Let me know what you think about this distinction.

What is your own experience with this?
Do you try to control your body or mind or do you try to master them?
What are the rewards and challenges of this very yogic process for you personally?

If you like this distinction, you can find more in my book The Wise Way to Yoga available on Amazon

Also, look for my series of Free Live Webinar starting again soon. And this time, when you register, if you can’t attend, you can still get a recording!:)

Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her Body Intelligence Activation Process™ (B.I.A. Process) to assist yogis in enhancing their practice towards best performance with optimal safety. She is also a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist and a Reiki Practitioner. Faculty at Akasha Yoga Teacher Training, she runs a 12 months Mastermind for Yoga Teachers with a Vision, and a 90 Day Live Online Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses. She is also the author of a June 2018 publication called THE WISE WAY TO YOGA which is available on Amazon or from Cecile if you are local to Boston!
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3 responses »

  1. Very thought-provoking as usual. I have this Headspace app on my phone and I’ve been meditating nearly every day for three years. I’ve been encouraged to NOT try and stop my thoughts, but to just watch them, acknowledge them and then get back to focusing on the breathe.
    I’m now applying this to my work with the Alexander Technique. Rather than trying to control my body with lots of “No no no!” and all these directions, I find myself saying “Yes” and then aim to get out of the way as much as possible.
    I hope this makes sense.

    • It makes sense. I have been meditating for 30 years and for me choosing to not engage in a harmful habitual pattern is the same as choosing not to engage with emerging thoughts. They are both a choice to not let ego-driven thoughts, behaviors or movements come in the way.

      Does this resonate with you Rob?

    • I want to add that I never say no to anything, I choose not to do something harmful. For me, inhibition is a positive statement. For argument sake, when a battered woman chooses to not live with her abusive husband, is this not a positive move on her part?:)

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