Self awareness, its development and Yoga

School of Yoga explains the Self, its awareness and Yoga

  • Our sense of Self (asmita) depends on the feedback we get from others. 
  • Over time, this feedback becomes our perception of Ourselves.
  • Consequently, it becomes the base of our conditioning (dharma).
  • Unfortunately, our actions are never a perfect expression of our self and neither is the feedback we receive from others. So, there is a gap between our expression and feedback. This is called  maya or farce.
  • We are continuously transacting to maintain our sense of Self (asmita). 
  • There is continuous give and take which is mostly unequal, with one giving more than the other. As a result, nearly all transactions result in debt (rinn).
  • Due to the feedback, our conditioning and sense of Self get updated. This changes our personality or svatantra.

Svatantra is a compound word (Sva = self + tantra = weave) and is the result of the yoking of our conditioning with our behaviour in any situation. Yoke? 

Yes, yoke is the English term for the Sanskrit word, Yoga both words are cognate, from the same root.

School of Yoga explains Identity of the Self and Yoga.

Yoga (yoking) can be used to refer to any relationship between 2 entities such as;

  • The yoking of our sense of Self (Siva) with our manifestationShakti)
  • The yoking of  our conditioning (svadharma) with our behaviour (svabhaava).
  • The yoking of the person with the environment or situation (vijnana).
  • The yoking of man and woman into a union – ardhangini (half body woman).

Yoga is ability use the awareness of Self or pragnya to transcend the bond (to be in the bond but not be affected by it), thereby isolating it. This awareness comprises 2 aspects. The awareness of the Self in any situation or vijnana and the awareness of the Self as an entity or jnana.

What is Yoga? Definition and relationship with the Self

Patanjali Yoga Sutra defines Yoga as chitta (thought / personalityvriddhi (arising) nirodha (stoppage) which translates to “personality or thought arising stoppage” and means “the ability to get to a state where there is no personality”.  

This means that Yoga is the technique of moving awareness from reflex, to conscious with the final goal being the cessation of personality.

School of Yoga explains stages of development of the Self:

This subtle awareness of the yoking (yoga) between one’s sense of Self and external or internal entities goes through the experience of a mix of 4 levels of awareness. They are;

  • Jagrat (wakeful or transactional state) – Awareness of the sense of Identity (asmita) in any situation. Success is achieved by controlling cognition or indriyas. When stimulus is physically isolated,  there is reduced like-dislike (raga-dwesha).
  • Swapna (conceptual or dream state) – All stimuli, whether external or internal leave a residue. This state is transcended when conditioning or (dharma) is transcended. The physical manifestation of this state is breathing with no agitation.
  • Sushupti (formless state or nir-roopa) – This state is one where form is transcended.
  • Turiya (state where no guna exists nirguna state). In this state, there are no attributes..

Finally, the indication that one’s awareness (pragnya) is developing in the right direction is a permanent sense of peace (shanthi) or increasing level of homeostasis within the Self (asmita).

School of Yoga explains awareness of the Self or Pragnya.

Situational Awareness (pragnya) operates at two levels; awareness at a situational level (vijnana) and awareness of the impact of change on the sense of Self (jnana). This occurs when:

  • There is a continuous sense of equilibrium or homeostasis when interacting with the environment. 
  • There is increased awareness of the stimulus, ability to extract and assimilate the essence of the experience, reference and understand concepts and reconciliation with ones own personality.
  • The ability to handle multiple situations without getting agitated.

Responses to stimuli is a weave of our identity with our behavior. So, awareness of our decision making process allows our personality come under our own control and this is yoga practice.

School of Yoga explains the major schools of  Yoga for transcending the Self

  • Jnana Yoga In this school, the sense of Self is transcended by negating the stimulus.
  • Bhakti YogaIn this school, the sense of Self is transferred to another entity like God, Guru etc.
  • Karma YogaIn this school, sense of Self is transcended by negating the consequences of response.
  • Hatha YogaIn this school, the sense of Self is transcended by using the body and the subtle energy channels.
  • Raja YogaIn this school, the sense of Self is transcended by combining elements of all the above schools.

Anecdotes, experiences and situations to help understand the Self…


The transformation of Cassius Clay in Mohammed Ali

Mohammed Ali was born as Cassius Clay and began training in boxing to channelize his anger at discrimination. At age 22, he defeated Sonny Liston to become the world champion. Shortly thereafter, he converted to Islam to become Mohammed Ali. Two years later he refused to be conscripted, preferring to go to prison and be stripped of his championship titles. Resuming after four years, he regained the title and defended it twice. However, the hammering he received in the ring resulted in the debilitating illness of Parkinson leading to his retiring. Finally, his unflinching stand on discrimination made him an icon of his people.

  • How did Mohammed Ali’s identity develop and change?
  • What was the stimulus in each case which prompted change? From Cassius Clay to Mohammed Ali, from free-man to convict and champion to patient.
  • How did he cope with the change?
  • Trace the changes to his interaction with his environment, within himself, his coming to terms with himself and his situation.

Points to Ponder on the Self:

Internal Tags: Dharma (conditioning)Stress and Situational AwarenessStress and pranaAwareness measures, Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga.

External Tags: Consciousness

  • How do you become aware of your personality?
  • What do you know of Yoga?
  • What is self control? How does it affect stress?
Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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