December 2, 2014: Yesterday Chef Heather Haxo Phillips and I got together to shoot some videos for our upcoming program in January (www.sadhanaimmersion.com). We created some promo videos to talk about what the program actually is, we created some inspirational self-help videos to help people commit to their yoga practice, and we created a guided home practice sequence. The first run through was not so good. We were stilted and nervous and rambling. But, we kept going with takes and eventually we got a little silly, our passion started shining through and our words became clearer and more succinct. However, at some point our shininess wore off and we started to devolve into thinking too much and annoyance. At this point I said, "We're done", and we took a break. We went downstairs and got something to eat together. After about 30 minutes we were ready to go back to shooting the videos and knocked them out one after the other. We were communicating more effectively but perhaps more importantly, we were enjoying ourselves and as a result our true selves began to emerge.
The two wings of yoga practice are abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (detachment). Practice (abhyasa) becomes Sadhana (devoted practice) when we commit ourselves fully to the path of Self-realization. The foundation of yoga practice is regular, repeated effort over a long time. However, if this feels mechanical and hard, we are unlikely to stick with it. Our practice should bring us contentment, joy and energy. If it is not, then we need to look at why that is (vs. stopping practice!) We may not be excited to start our practice every day but we are more likely to continue our practice if we feel lighter and better at the end.
Yoga classes are great and it is very helpful and recommended that you have a teacher that you study with regularly. But, the rubber really hits the road and the benefits of yoga practice become your own when you commit to a personal practice of yoga. At first it will be awkward and you will ask yourself "am I doing this right?" but instead of allowing that to be a barrier, use it as an opportunity. Do ask yourself if you are doing the pose right, but instead of relying on external measures, use your own insight. Does the pose feel healthy, nourishing, light and illuminative? If not, than where is there heaviness, resistance, blockages and how can you meet those impediments and work with them?
You will also be very surprised once you actually get in a pose, that there is a wealth of information in your own body already. Drawn from the classes you have taken and your own experience. At some point, you may feel as I described above during the video shoot that things are beginning to devolve at which point your practice might be over OR you might just try doing another type of poses. For example, if you are doing standing poses and you start to feel your energy going down then do a supported backbend like supta baddha konasana or supta virasana. You might be surprised that your energy is back after 10 minutes! Just like our tea break during the video shoot.
Abhyasa (practice) merges into Sadhana (practice with devotion) when we let go of an expectation of future reward and instead surrender to the present moment over and over and over again. At some point, you realize that you are not only practicing for yourself but to support your life and the lives of those around you. When you have a regular spiritual practice, you feel like a better person (and you don't need anyone to acknowledge that for you!) You are able to let go of fear and the barriers separating you from others and the world and radiate your true, authentic self.
From B.K.S. Iyengar, "Education, derived from the Latin educate, means to educe or draw forth the latent potential - to develop the talents and gifts of an individual. It is the drawing out of the best qualities of a person. It is the task of a good educator to help his students realize their strengths or their weaknesses and then contribute to their growth and development on the one hand and eradication of weakness on the other." (Sparks of Divinity)
Are you educating your self or just going through the motions?
Virabhadrasana I and II (Warrior poses) with B.K.S. Iyengar