On the Depths of Practice
In all the time I’ve been a yoga teacher, I’ve received countless questions about the performance of a particular pose or asana, just a handful about breath techniques or pranayama, and practically none about the six other dimensions or “limbs” of yoga as formalized by the sage Patañjali.
There is nothing wrong with this preoccupation with the more tangible aspects of yoga. It’s part of our very incarnateness—our nature as embodied subjectivities—to gravitate towards form: to what can be seen, to what can be felt and to what can be captured and conveyed in language. As we progress in the practice, however, as our bodily strength grows and as our muscle memory develops, more and more mental and emotional space opens up for an awareness of the less tangible aspects of the practice to arise. This space reveals itself in a greater capacity to regulate one’s breath, to direct one’s gaze, and to discover an increasingly more expansive sense of stillness within.
I personally believe that this gradually increasing receptivity is natural, provided we persevere long enough in the practice and avoid maintaining or strengthening attachments to the purely physical dimension of yoga. While there’s nothing wrong with practicing yoga for physical purposes alone, to do so would be to unnecessarily deprive oneself of the far-ranging benefits of the practice. There is no need to generate overt feelings of depth, profundity or spirituality—to do so would be inauthentic and counterproductive—but to simply remain…open. Then, in our willingness to see where the practice will lead us, we begin to see the parallels between our disposition on the mat and our disposition “off” it; we begin to perceive our attachments to control, to perfection, to perpetually getting it right, to constantly achieving more, and from there, learn compassion, learn surrender—and perhaps even discover joy.
That, really, is our invitation in this blog post. Our time is so very precious, and the 75 to 90 minutes we spend practicing on the mat can count for so much more if we approach them with the right intention. If we can see those 75 to 90 minutes as more than just a workout session, if we can see them instead as the cultivation of vitality, serenity and harmony through the use of form rather than a celebration of form itself, then what we gain is a practice that can profoundly transform our lives.
We hope that you accept this invitation, and by doing so, discover joy.
Eileen and Abbey