Days 7 to 9 – practice with a purpose

10 September, 2010

Each morning I go through a ritual of sorts to convince myself to get out of my comfortable bed and go practice on my mat….there are few things that make me feel more alive and aware than when I’m doing asana…but I won’t lie to you, I’m no morning person.

I practice in the morning because it is the best time for me to do so (aside from the fact that you get the clean, cool morning air, your body is stronger and you benefit from having to stretch muscles that have stiffened up during the inertia of sleep) – I work a full-time day job and teach most evenings – but for me, the biggest challenge is getting out of that perfect spot in the bed, when the room is the perfect temperature, and all is good and wonderful in the universe. I have often wondered what that means “Am I really an undisciplined person underneath?” “Do I truly love what I do?” Believe me, I LOVE to practice, and 15 minutes into it, no matter how groggy I was when I awake or how many time I think “my bed is calling me back right now”, I know for sure “This is where I’m meant to be, in this very moment”

I say all of this to say that we don’t always have the reason that we practice in sharp and clear focus, sometimes just to practice IS the reason. This is particularly true when you hit a point when a posture isn’t “working” for you; though the most immediate response may, borne of frustration, be “I don’t want to do this”, push through anyway, give it your best love and attention in that moment, but try not to tie your own worth as a human being to it. Making yoga a sustainable part of your life means two things and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (on of THE foremost treatises on the philosophy of yoga) says it best:

  1. Practice (abhyasa) – means having the attitude of persistence to find peace in the practice, practice must be done consistently and over a long period of time in order for the practitioner to reap its ripest fruit. This means you have to get up and try, even when the bed seems a better option but it also means that you should have a sustainable relationship with your practice, guilt and resentment have no place here. At the same time, your practice shouldn’t be, as Kino put it, “this all-or-nothing thing that you feel you have to do”. Assess who you are and what you feel like each day, do your very honest best and then let go of your expectation of what you think that practice should be, which leads me to:
  2. Non-attachment (vairagya) – the ability to let go of any attachments, fears, desires and delusions you might have about the practice and why you do it. This means that for however long you’re on the mat, make the effort to suspend you ego, certainly the part of it that says “I did this yesterday, why can’t I now?” or “I should be able to do this by now” and just enjoy what it is that you do. Come to your mat with no pre-conceived notions of yourself, begin with the breath and end with the breath.

I wanted to share these two principles because they underscore why I love yoga so much, and because I have dedicated my practice to a woman who gave her final breath on Wednesday night, having spent so much time in the service and love of others. She was sweet, giving and quite frankly, extraordinary. She will be missed. I will love and remember her always. RIP Aunty G.

We come into this life on an inhale and leave it on an exhale, but rarely do we pay attention to the breaths between. When we apply the discipline of practice with the ease of non-attachment, we find that our practice can soar to its highest height and plumb its greatest depth. On the days when you have doubt, fear and guilt, remember this, and let THAT be your purpose

with love

SWWW

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