A cup of tea is in my hand, and my mind is giving me an idea to write an article on yoga and mental wellbeing. I listened to my mind, then looked deeply into this suggestion, and with a smile, a ‘yes’ came from my heart.
The mind is the most sophisticated mechanism given by nature to humans to take care of their survival. We have to understand that the mental realm is a protective tool.
Let’s use this analogy: the mind is a tree, with flowers of thoughts and a fragrance of emotions. They are an important part of life. Without the mind, we can’t read, talk, or express anything. Our mind enables us to receive the gift of knowledge from our ancestors. This mind is the development of millions of years. All the experiences and valuable knowledge of the past cannot be passed from one generation to another without the mind.
We need to really see the mind as a good friend and take care of it. We are not educated enough on the subject of understanding our own minds – what they are made of, how they function, and the possibilities they hold.
Yoga has a practical way of understanding the mind.
There is a whole chapter in yoga called ‘Manomaya Kosha‘ (the mental body). According to yogic wisdom, the mind is made of thoughts and emotions that are formed by our childhood, education, society, and experiences.
The mind can be directed towards the positive, negative, or neutral. We can either like, dislike, or be indifferent. Sometimes we feel positive, and other times negative. Positive feelings create well-being, while if negative feelings take over, they have a negative impact on the body and future.
We have to introspect and study our own minds. We need to find out what kind of mental state we spend most of our time in. Does our mind live in complaints, judgments, and condemnation, or in thankfulness, friendliness, and appreciation of the world around us? We must also examine our predominant emotional state – is it positive or negative? We need to discover these aspects within ourselves to study our minds.
Once you find out what type of mind you carry, take full responsibility for your inner state. Recognize that whatever is happening within you, you are responsible for it. This action is called maturity in the yogic system.
Moving forward towards mental well-being, yogic wisdom suggests paying attention to the food you eat and the water you drink. If both are not of good quality, your body will suffer, and so will your mind.
Secondly, consider the kind of literature you read.
Does it lead you towards healthy patterns, or are the words meaningless, creating unnecessary problems within you?
Thirdly, reflect on what movies, television shows, and social media content you consume. Examine where they are leading you and what they are creating within you.
Lastly, and most importantly, pay close attention to the kind of company or friends you keep. If you surround yourself with negative people, it will create more problems for your mind. Find a company of people who support and help you become a better person.
What we eat, what we see, what we read, and with whom we spend time creates our mental world (thoughts and emotions), and they impact every aspect of our lives.
Once this understanding is reached, yogic science provides a practical methodology.
Yoga advises us not to be violent towards ourselves but to accept ourselves as we are and find the next step.
There are five main states of the deeper mind discussed in yogic mental health: continuously desiring mind, anger, greed, attachments, and a superior/inferior complex. We have to identify which one is stronger within us and start working on it.
After understanding our mental state, we need to pay attention to our physical body. Negative emotions, stress, tension, and traumatic experiences create tension in the physical body. Our muscles and joints become tight and rigid, leading to various physical problems. This is where asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (yoga breathing) come into play. They are designed to release the emotional stress from the body through physical movement. Many of our suppressed emotions get stuck in the hips, lower back, upper back, shoulders, and neck, affecting our organs. For instance, anger can create problems for the liver, grief for the lungs, worry for the spleen, fear for the kidneys, and overexcitement for other organs.
Yoga postures and breathing techniques help release the negative impact from the body and mind. However, the most important part of yogic wisdom is meditation. Nowadays, even science recognizes the benefits of meditation.
Meditation is a method to bring the mind into the present moment. Our minds are conditioned to either dwell on the past or worry about the future. Yogic meditations are designed to connect us with the here and now, allowing us to manage our minds and find peace and calmness.
Essentially, yoga is a conscious decision to take responsibility for our health and happiness. It provides us with the tools, methods, and wisdom to nourish ourselves and live a fulfilling life with ourselves and the world around us.