In our yoga practice we have the opportunity to be attentive and aware. We have the opportunity to train our mind onto our breath and to notice when the mind travels elsewhere. We can experience the comfort of holding a pose while focused on our breath. We notice the discomfort of holding a pose while wishing we were elsewhere. When we are not mentally focused and present, we experience suffering by wishing for what is not. When we allow our thoughts to drift into negativity about our current situation we are like a worm on a hook. Desperate to be free of the barb in our side. The body follows the mind into this discomfort and we experience dis-ease.
We use the time on our mats to practice mental focus, training our thoughts toward positivity in each asana. We become better at noticing how the mind wanders, followed by the discomfort of the body and become adept at refocusing our mental efforts. Slowly, session by session and pose by pose we come to understand the ox and how it pulls the cart. We begin directing the ox towards happiness and contentment, noticing more quickly when we follow the wrong path.
The Dhammapada contains an excellent passage that speaks to the power of the mind. It is one of my favorites. I offer it to you as a source of reflection for your practice.
Understand the way?
Your worst enemy cannot harm you
As much as your thoughts, unguarded.
But once mastered,
No one can help you as much.
Not even your father or your mother.
~ Dhammapada The Buddha
source: Kornfield - The Teachings of the Bhudda, v.42