Let’s face it . . . We all need a break sometimes. We need moment to step back, gain some perspective, recognize that we are more than the thoughts and emotions we are having in the immediate moment. We need a moment to realize that we are more than the physical pain, the grief, the fear, or the illness we are experiencing. It’s no wonder that, within the traditional path of yoga, four of it’s eight limbs are dedicated to learning to quiet and focus our minds. In yoga, it’s sometimes called “cultivating the witness.” We use our breath, our ability to focus and concentrate, our posture, and our intention to become familiar with that part of ourselves that can “witness” our thoughts, feelings, even our discomfort. We initially learn to recognize, and then gradually to be at home with, this witnessing part of ourselves. Once found, the witnessing place within us can be a powerful reminder that we are more than the sum of our immediate strong feelings, thoughts, story-lines, physical pain, even illness. Cultivation of the witness within ourselves empowers us to make choices where before we felt victim to circumstances and situations beyond our control. We meet the witness as a loving, non-judgmental place within ourselves. Spending time in this witnessing place creates a sense of sanctuary and peace.
We begin learning this process early on in yoga practice, and then we integrate it into our asana practice. Once we are able to consistently find it in yoga, it has the benefit of expanding outward into the rest of our lives.