Awareness is the force through which yoga creates transformation. Discipline of work is required to be present so that awareness can arise. In his book Light on Life, BKS Iyengar speaks of the power of awareness and the power of energy joining forces to, “create lightning that banishes darkness.” The darkness he refers to is avidya - unknowing or ignorance. I don’t often think of awareness being a power, but now that I think about it, it certainly is. As a matter of fact, it’s a superpower. Through the superpowers of awareness and work, the unknown becomes known, and avidya becomes vidya - knowing or clarity.
Shakti, in Sanskrit, is power or force. It refers to the forces that govern the universe. Power comes in many forms - electricity, waves of the ocean, propulsion of a sprinter, arising of emotions. In the beginning of your yoga practice, your power of awareness starts to glimmer - you become aware of the physical - the tight spots, the loose ones, the strong and weak ones - and the emotional - stress lessening, balance coming, happiness peaking its head out. Over time, your power of awareness expands - you become aware of when your stress is starting to build, when you’re coming off balance, when your body is becoming injured. This awareness lets you address the emotions or physical injuries at an earlier time than you used to - before they get out of hand. Now you’re halfway to banishing darkness.
Awareness is the lighting up of the darkness, but what sparks the light? What flips the switch? Transformation may come from awareness, but awareness needs a catalyst. The catalyst is work. You need to work at your yoga practice - have discipline to continue practicing over a long period of time, practice with devotion, explore the philosophical principles, detach from results. Without this work, the lightning won’t strike, and awareness will remain elusive. Let’s imagine that the storm clouds, with their build up of negatively charged ions at the bottom, represent the power of energy. At the same time, we’ll imagine that the power building inside you - that of awareness - is the positive charge on the ground. As the energy in the clouds builds to a critical point, it can’t help but be attracted strongly to the awareness inside you. And a bolt of lightning strikes. Your insides light up like the daytime. You can see clearly what exists inside - physical ailments, emotional and mental states, all in flux. You won’t see everything at once, as that would be too much for one mind to absorb at once. But you see more; and you move toward vidya.
Transformation begins only once the light has shone. For how can you spark change without knowing what’s going on? The shakti of energy and of awareness come together and crack into the bolt of lightning that flashes into the dark space. This is the beginning of change - the beginning of unraveling, building, surrendering, shedding and shining. All for which you came to yoga begins to happen, and then some.