One of the many wonderful gifts of insight that I received studying the Patanjali Yoga Sutra’s at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandaram is the notion that Yoga takes effort.
The experience of yoga which is a moment to moment endeavour…is not something that just slips under our feet and lifts us off into the land of lavender and honey because we want it to…and more especially because we participate in asana classes a few times a week. And another one I grapple with- is that all I have to do is allow, accept and surrender into yoga’s arms. Surrender into focus, attention, presence, balancing softness with action; surrender and accept who I am and who other people are…ahem….but what if I am an asshole? Should I just accept that, and not make any changes?? And what if that friend of mine is out right rude to the waitress and I’m starting to realize we have totally different values? Do I accept, and find within myself a place where I can learn to accept this person and continue to spend time with them?
So, is yoga accepting things as they are, or making changes to have the things that I want?
The experience of yoga is an endeavour towards freedom. So what does it mean to be free……? take a minute and answer that for yourself.
Freedom to me, means to be less bound by the limitations that hold you back from fully being in each moment without the constraints of the past, and expectations of the future. Freedom means that I am not limited to thinking things must be a certain way, and that I am a certain person, who can and can’t do certain things, and that the people around me are a certain way, and I am going to hold them to it, and that I am a certain way and unwilling to adjust who I am in order to bring me more happiness…or better yet adjust my circumstances in order to be happier. Maybe that means letting go of that friend, or that person in your life that doesn’t resonate with who you are anymore. So there is some acceptance, accepting that you cannot change anyone else, and accepting that what once was, doesn’t mean it always will be.
To me freedom is not something I expect to have all of the time….in the words of Robert Birnberg “suffering will come find you, you don’t have to look for it”.
I don’t know about you- but I want more freedom, more of the time!
So indeed yoga is about flexibility….flexibility in the way you see the world and yourself; so you are less bound to all that you rigidly hold onto. All that you have worked so hard to strengthen your identity with. All the colourings with which you see the world. All that you imagined things would be like. Side note: Having a flexible body does not ensure this kind of thinking.
But it doesn’t hurt to master the limitations you have in your mind about what you can do with your body. And it also helps to make more space in your body, and clear out your mind all at the same time. The more you are focused on the breath during asana, the less you are a thinking head, the more space you have for being free. There are many other reasons why asana is amazing and wonderful…but to merely practice asana even if you are totally focused on the breath, is not going to give you freedom the way using yoga in your everyday interactions especially the one with yourself will.
First we must understand what it is that yoga (or any or practice) can do for us. We must understand how it can effect our life. From that comes the desire to want what it has to offer. We need to have faith that the practice of yoga is going to bring us what we want, we then need to make contact with it (touch, taste, smell, feel, breath and listen to how the aspects of yoga interact with us) and here’s the thing- to make contact with our whole heart, with awareness, with our reflective lens- the one that reflects our own image, our own behaviour, our own samskaras (habits)…the willingness to look at ourselves and our role in our interactions, the willingness to see without attachment to our ego, the willingness to let go, and yes there is also a willingness to accept things as they are…a surrender if you will- but there is also the awareness on the adjustments that can be made in order to interact with the world in a way that brings you more freedom…and for most of us that takes some change. Maybe the change is to learn how to accept some things? Accepting your past, and be with things as they are in each moment with awareness, reflect on how things play out and then apply some effort to adjust things- to bring about what you really want for the future. And over and over again…
It’s the same way we adjust ourselves in a posture to find more stability and space in the body.
That’s a lot….the willingness, the desire, the faith, the interaction with yoga takes effort. It is an on going practice, and we will fall from yoga’s grace over and over again, from the grace of being free. And as Patanjali so precisely spoke about- yoga is meant to be done with correct effort (positive attitude, enthusiasm, for a long time, and uninterrupted)….the uninterrupted part simply means that if you shall fall away from yoga’s grace, keep making your way back with enthusiasm….(if you indeed know that it is the path for you), yoga’s path will be waiting for you, and is willing to take you back over and over again.
The path is being able to discern when to let go and accept and when to make adjustments towards change.