Yoga: Contemplation and the Search for the Self, by Simone Nitzan

Image credit: Dustin Quasar

To contemplate: the act of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time. Taking the form of meditation when directed inwards or prayer when directed outwards; contemplation can be used as a powerful tool of self-inquiry in many of our yogic practices. Contemplative meditation, meditating on the Self or our true nature, is a strong and challenging practice. Practicing in this way will help us dissolve our identity with the individual self, our ego, and show us a greater connection of unity of which we are all apart.

Many of us who practice yoga have heard this idea of meditating on the Self. But our practical experience with such a state is limited, or non-existent. Often when we sit to meditate we discover that our mind is either ready to run a marathon of thoughts in multiple directions, or we start to feel sleepy and drop out, falling into a state of almost sleep. It is my belief that in order to practice contemplative meditation we must first practice and cultivate our powers of concentration. Cultivating these powers can take many forms: asana practice, sitting meditation or any number of everyday situations. When we find ourselves in a situation that challenges us, either mentally, emotionally or physically, a deep breath and focusing the mind on the task at hand can render the impossible possible.

As a yoga teacher I sometimes have the experience of unity while teaching. Everything falls into place, the energy is aligned and I feel I am one with the students, the asanas and the room. The energy flows in such a way that all present have a profound experience. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I feel the energy is off, I’m not in a flow with the students, they aren’t getting what I’m talking about and the class feels flat. This can be triggered when I walk into the class and there are only a few people there, I catch myself immediately going down a dark tunnel, questioning my abilities and like-ability as a yoga teacher. In these situations I have a choice, I can cultivate my concentration to put the necessary energy into the class for some form of experience to occur. I can choose to see the situation as an opportunity for me to practice staying grounded, cultivating my concentration to stay focused on the creation of a class that stays in harmony with all who are in the room. Or I can stay in the place of self-doubt and deprecation. With a small number of students in the class they may have a deeper or more transformative experience. This is an amazing opportunity for me to reach people in a more personal way, allowing me to offer more of myself to them.

The deeper I examine the Self, the more time I spend in my own practice in this state of unity, the more I can cultivate that when teaching. Every time I find myself in a state of duality with the students and the class it is an opportunity to practice pulling myself out of that state and grounding myself back in oneness with the energy of the class. The energy is continuative through the practice of teaching; I have the opportunity to strengthen my abilities of contemplative meditation deepening my own experience, therefore allowing me to offer a more meaningful experience to the students. Every moment of everyday provides the opportunity for experiencing the Self or realizing our true nature. I find these moments most often when teaching. For others they will come in a different form. We don’t necessarily have to be in a contemplative meditation to have these experiences; we only need to be open to possibility and keep our awareness at every moment for the opportunities as they open up to us.

Simone NitzanSimone Nitzan holds Bachelor and Master degrees in exercise physiology. She brings to the yoga room a unique understanding of the body’s alignment and functionality, as well as a desire to make each student feel great in their body and mind. She teaches in Toronto at Downward Dog Yoga Center and YogaBe.

For more information about Simone, please visit simonenitzanyoga.com.