The main goal of yoga is to control and direct our mental fluctuations, so that when the dust settles we can see yourself for who we really are and the reality for what it is. The main tool to do that is meditation.
Yoga has its own rich meditation tradition with different techniques and strategies that serve different purposes. But when you want to change your mental state right then and there, I believe that there are two main ways to approach it. I call them the “observe” approach and the “embody” approach.
In the “observe” approach, you reflect on a specific issue that is relevant to you right now. For example, if you are constantly feeling mildly irritated, you can explore that feeling in your meditation and ponder where this feeling is coming from. Here you attempt to become an impartial observer of your thought patterns and/or emotions, focus on them and see what comes up. You can call it a “step-out” approach, because you are symbolically stepping out of your experience and looking at it from the outside. For example, in this yoga practice we imagine putting your current problem on a display stand in a museum and looking at it from different angles.
In the “embody” approach, instead of reflecting on the topic directly, you use images, gestures, sounds, etc. to symbolically manifest an idea or move your energy a certain way. You can ground, expand, connect and empower yourself, cultivate your inner fierceness, or do whatever else you want to do. Here you try to embody a certain quality and by doing that, change the way you think and feel. You can call it a “step-in” approach, because you symbolically step into your current state and then do actual body movements and envision things that manifest a different state, the one that you are trying to move toward. For example, in this practice we try to embody the feeling of fierceness – what would it feel like in your body and mind to be fierce?