Today I did an hour long class via audio recording of my old teacher from Denver. I was trying to be really present and ujiyai breath fully but I was always ahead. When you’re teaching, especially in the beginning, they’re always reminding you that yoga is hard for people, and we just forget that, right? I remember I was always trying to work my students into challenging poses (not just arm balances, but twists and standing balances poses, holds, and other stuff) and I would say, “The whole thing about yoga is, you’re just always trying to find new ways to challenge your breath. You get into this increasingly uncomfortable space, where you’re constricted or you’re struggling, then you breath calmly, fully, sweetly anyway.” That seems hilarious now, as ujayi breath is a struggle in child’s pose and once we start Sun A I can’t extend my breaths long enough to stay with his cues. I actually fell on my butt trying to get my weight back in chair pose 🤷♀️.
The class was about getting outside of your comfort zone (if you’re interested, it’s available free here, I’m not affiliated in any way). I was trying to think about abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (nonattachment). The practice is to come to your mat and breath, and if you struggle, you still breath, and if you fall you still breath, and if it’s uncomfortable, you still breath. And that’s just it, that’s the whole thing. You try to let go of the other stuff, the self criticism and doubt and frustration and impatience (I found myself apparently unwilling to do a long hold in warrior two, opting instead to flow between reverse and extended, 🤦♀️ too impatient apparently to do what my teacher told me to). You don’t want to hold it? You think you’d be better off doing something else? You’re definitely wrong, because if you’re resisting something, you obviously need to face it. My teacher said, “Choose yes here.” I’m constantly amazed at how far-reaching audio recorded in 2012 can be.
Iyengar says abhyasa is the evolution and variagya is the involtion. They’re the yin and the yang.
1.14 Long, uninterrupted, alert practice is the firm foundation for restraining the fluctuations.
Iyengar says, “When the effort is continued in accordance with yogic principles consistently and for a long time, with earnestness, attention, application, and devotion, the yogic foundation is firmly established.”
1.15 Renunciation is the practice of detachment from desires.
“Non-attachment and detachment must be learned through willpower. Profound wisdom is gained through steady, dedicated, attentive practice, and non-attachment through applied restraint.” -Iyengar.
Yesterday we talked about the obstacles you’ll face: laziness, doubts, misconceptions, overindulgence, and the pain and suffering they cause. How to slay the obstacles? This is one of my favorite sutras, it’s very straightforward but packs a big punch:
The next five sutras go further to describe practices for overcoming obstacles and calming the mind. Let me paraphrase them quickly:
These five are about meditation, and they mostly sound hard but the gist of it is to be calm and focused, and some tips basically to help you be calm and focused. First is to breathe with intention and practice retention (calmly! I suppose that’s the practice, because I don’t know that I’ve ever felt calm during retention, even after years of regular practice). To start practicing single minded focus, using drishti (gaze) or mantra to help you. Remember that the core of stillness comes from your own heart and that even when your mind is busy, let your heart be still. And practice the physical poses and breathing with intention and attention.
On this note, I’ve committed to start trying to meditate again (outside of yoga). Meditation is hard and frustrating for me, I assume like anyone else. It actually always has been. I always practiced yoga as my “moving meditation” and struggled to sit still and clear my mind in a traditional mindfulness meditation practice. Today I did a short sesh on Insight Timer, (I have no affiliation with it, I just downloaded the app and started using it because it’s free and I heard it’s good) and it was pretty good, though I did let my mind keep wandering, and though it will be an uphill battle, I’m devoted to giving it a fair shake this time. Although I realize now I did the meditation while I was in pigeon, so perhaps I’m already blowing it? I did this short one on “letting go” because I thought it would tie into vairagya, although it was more just calming than anything.
Tomorrow, I’m going to do:
- 10 rounds of sun salutations in the morning and try to do them with intentional breathing, patience, and attention.
- I’m going to do another hour longish recorded class.
- I’m going to practice 1.33, and cultivate amity for the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard for the wicked.
- And this is a tall order for me but I’m going to try to do five minutes of mindfulness meditation that’s not guided 😨. That’s the plan! Hopefully I do it. Maybe you’ll do it along with me? I sure miss having the community of studios.