• Helen Hattingh

A Warrior Mentality - lessons learned from yoga poses

About twenty years ago now, I was given a painting from a long-standing, close friend from school. It’s called the warrior, named so by my friend. This painting has intrigued me throughout my years. It was a painting of me that, at first, I didn’t like at all. I love it now as it has brought home the duality that lives within every one of us. My friend who painted this has since passed away and left a vacuum once filled with courageous conversations and endless debate. The painting takes on new meaning as I grow older and see the inevitable push and pull of life. Yoga has brought home the warrior and made it real and I explore the warrior constantly when I practice.

Initially, I didn’t want to see this duality. I rejected it as being false and describing me in a way that I did not want to be seen. I see it now for what it is. There are always two sides to every story and the truth is not as you see it, tainted as it is, by individual perspective; the lessons of one’s childhood, and the impact of your education and socioeconomic environment.

In yoga, there are several warrior poses. The poses mimic the push and pull in life. There is always a duality, moving towards and moving away; Yoga explores this duality and teaches us t to find the balance between the two polarities. Warriors know the contrasts between the dualities and are mindful to seek the balance between the two. The definition of a warrior is to take ownership of your life; It describes someone who is adapted to change. It explores who we are as humans.

A warrior is open to change (mentally physically and emotionally) A warrior knows freedom and flexibility. A warrior cultivates vulnerability and strength. A warrior finds balance in the breath.

We all know that our thoughts, our judgments, and our perceptions have a direct impact on our bodies and vice versa. We also know that the average person has around 70 000 thoughts every day. Whilst only 5 % of these thoughts are new thoughts, This means that 95% of our thoughts are repeated over and over. What percentage of these thoughts are negative? We also know that energy goes where concentration flows. It makes sense therefore that we need to become aware of our thoughts if we are to find this balance. We need to make the unconscious conscious. We need to constantly and consciously direct our thoughts away from the negative towards a more positive frame of mind.

How do we do this? By cultivating presence.

Yoga is a wonderful way of exploring the modalities of presence in the spiritual; the physical and the mental worlds. When practicing the yoga poses, the steadiness and concentration embody the spirit of the yoga warrior as it tests the courage to rise up out of your limitations, to feel the pain, and explore it with curiosity. Breathing into the pain to see if we can find a sense of balance as we stretch a muscle or find our balance.

As with the yoga poses, the warrior mentality can be brought to life in our everyday struggles. The push and pull of emotions are constantly with us. The warrior mentality allows us to cultivate both humility and power. There is gracefulness in the poses coupled with strength. There is balance coupled with pain. There is mastery coupled with curiosity. There is a constant breath that reminds us of the life force running through us. There is the grounding towards the earth or the yoga mat as we rise away from the earth to open our hearts and see our fear. We practice cultivating the mind of a warrior, remaining unattached as we work through our own physical, mental and emotional limitations.

Off the yoga mat, the warrior becomes our strength and our resilience. It allows us to know pain, but to be inspired by the beauty we find around us. It allows us to cry at the heart-wrenching absence of the people we love and it allows us to laugh and find true joy in the antics of the birds in the garden. It allows us to know that it is good and bad in the world and that we have the choice to choose which path we’d like to follow. It allows us to be grateful for another sunrise as we feel the sadness of the sunset at the closing of the day.

Most of all a warrior mentality allows us to find stillness in the midst of chaos, aware that life is always changing and that we too can embrace the change. It allows us to face our fear and to lean into the challenge of a new tomorrow.

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