The Art of Sensation in Asana

Ayami Yamamichi
The Art of Sensation in Asana

Thich Nhat Hanh says the art of happiness is also the art of suffering. That when we learn to embrace, acknowledge, and understand our suffering, we suffer much less.

That makes me think of a crying newborn or a barking dog. If we react in hysteria, the baby will continue to wail and the dog will continue to yammer. However, if we take a step back and take a breath instead, we'll see that the baby and dog simply have no other form of communication than to cry or bark. Through this simple acknowledgement we can help lessen the intensity of the mayhem.

On Breath and Mindfulness

I find that one simple breath instantly reveals the gateway to unlocking the art of sensation in asana and in life. This breath we take is linked to mindfulness where we shift our awareness away from mind fluctuations, and straight into the center of this moment. Right here, right now, which is simply to be with ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale.’

Mindfulness helps to release our fear of sensation as we live free of judgment to simply gather the experience of this moment for what it is. Any response that comes from a state of mindfulness will serve ourselves and society better than anything reactive and habitual.

The term ‘suffer’ is a story we create in our mind about a neutral experience. In the asana (physical postural) practice of yoga, to ‘suffer’ is one way we can interpret sensations in our body or mental emotions that arise.

In yoga asana, our mind can label sensation as evil, which may make us extra tense and frustrated, OR we can acknowledge, embrace, and understand that the sensation is teaching and guiding us toward growth. Growth naturally leads to a connection with our internal spirit and our higher mind.

Here are two examples of labeling sensations as suffering:

“My thigh is burning!”

“My boss is so unrealistic and detrimental to my health!”

Now if we try and view these scenarios in neutrality, we can look at them as:

“I feel a muscle contraction in my front thigh.”

“I hear the voice of my boss in my head.”

Shifting the Mind to Neutrality

How do we move beyond the movie reel of our mind to one of neutrality? To me this is similar to asking, how do we make a 3-D photograph even more lifelike? We simply put the camera lens down and open our eyes to everything happening right now, only now!

To awaken out of suffering, we must recognize we have a choice to see things differently.~Ayami Yamamichi

We must switch the way we perceive, and step into life rather than live behind the lens of our mind. Only then can we go beyond sensation to learn from it.

Through our learning, we can churn out compassion toward others dealing with unpleasant circumstances to help them shift their mindset as well. In this way, we merge the art of suffering with that of happiness, and bring a sense of harmony and peace into the world.