The word grace in English has two definitions: noun. simple elegance or refinement in movement and verb. to do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence
When most of us hear the word grace, we think of the first definition. Elegance. Ballerinas. Swans. Right? There’s a little more to it than that. Refinement of movement has more to do with mindfulness, attention to the way that you’re using each muscle. Movement with intention, without waste or inefficiency. It applies to stillness too (and we know that there is really no such thing as stillness…no matter how little you think you are moving, you still breath. Your heart still beats.). The purpose of yoga poses is getting into increasingly challenging shapes with which to fill with unwavering breath and focus. As you’re holding a pose, initially you find alignment. Next, you evaluate where you need more support, what little refinements you can make to let the stillness become more solid and eventually softer.
The second definition gets more serious. Presence is more than the physical act of showing up to yoga class and putting your body in poses. You must be free from distraction, wholly focused and existing in the moment (all the good and all the bad). Inhale/exhale keeps you present. Do your best to keep your breath, drishti, and bandhas smooth and continuous, purposeful but not forceful.
Honoring someone or something by your presence in your practice is more than just being wholly focused and breathing in a meaningful and loving way. It starts in your intention. Honest and loving intentions are the foundation; they filter into every part of your practice, touch every piece. From loving intention comes supportive breath. From supportive breath comes solid posture. All the while, full of mindfulness and patience to exist in the moment. All of these pieces are what challenge us to be present; distraction is so much easier. Battling distraction is basically what we’ve been talking about with presence and breath. It’s not easy, sometimes it takes a long time, a lot of patience, so much practice. Concentration becomes increasingly more difficult the longer you stay somewhere. This is the challenge, the practice.
In bhakti practice, Kripa (divine grace) is generally the key to transcending the bondage of karma. Of all of the qualities of the human spirit, it is known that kripa is one of the most challenging to expose; sometimes in literature there are references to “earning” kripa. It is a lot of effort, devotion, and surrender to achieve divine grace. At the end of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is talking to Arjuna about kripa: “set aside your good deeds, and surrender to me completely with firm faith and loving concentration, and I will free you from sin and fear.” 18.65-.66
Interested in taking these ideas further? Check out my power, vinyasa, and restorative yoga classes from wherever you are on Audible Yoga https://audibleyoga.com/teacher/sarah-haubert?tc=31637 [you get a free trial!]