Ancient yoga tradition tells us that most of what we experience in this life – our struggles, hopes, fears, and our ups and downs – are the direct result of our own actions and beliefs.

Many people take that in a very simplistic way: it is our own “fault”. We feel guilt, shame and are trapped in an ancient web of cause and effect. In reality, those concepts are much more nuanced and sophisticated than that, and can be extremely helpful in understanding our behaviour and in transforming it – if that is our choice.

The word karma is surrounded with myth and shaded meaning. It literally means action, and expresses a basic law of the physical universe, a truth that the physicist Newton also realized: every action will create a reaction. When you apply force in one direction, there will be a consequence relative to that force. If you drop an apple, it will fall with the force relative to the weight of the apple and the distance it falls from. If you hit a wall, both wall and you will feel that force. The only thing the yogis did is apply this law to less concrete things, and spread that law over time: if you apply force in one direction – let’s say to harm someone, consciously or unconsciously – that same force will be felt by you, one day, somehow.

Now, if you do that once, realize what you’ve done, and decide you don’t want to act that way anymore, chances are you will still meet that force when the time comes, but then everything will be even again. But if you repeatedly apply force in the same direction, over a long period of time, it becomes a habit, a pattern. Yogis call it samskara. Those are harder to overcome, and the longer you’ve invested force in it, the harder it will be to break that pattern. Think about any kind of addiction: the longer you’ve been applying energy to it, the harder it will be to get rid of it.

Samskaras are stored in energy centres present along our spine. Each centre regulates specific functions in our physical body, specific emotions and thought patterns. So if our samskaras are related let’s say to a constant worry about ourselves and our lives, they will be stored in a specific (third) chakra, and so on. That constant worry and anxiety will lead us to behaviour that is maybe unconscious or unexamined, which will lead to action that will generate reaction in a specific way, and the cycle goes on and on and on.

There is a way to break this pattern though. And it’s name is yoga 😉

But before you get too excited let me clarify: it’s not your chaturangas that will break this pattern. It is your willingness to turn your attention within, to examine your behaviour and the forces that generated it, and an unrelenting commitment to apply force in the direction necessary to break away this pattern that will lead, eventually, to liberation.

In other words: meditate. Be still. Go inward. Sort you own mess out, even if it takes a lifetime – or more. As a friend of mine once said: “the only way out is in”.

by Anat Geiger