- Eckhart Tolle
This morning when practicing, I had a moment when I realized the difference between doing and being in each posture.
Through the years, I have practiced and flowed through the same sequence with minor changes here or there depending on the part of my body that needed love.... and even though the sequence remains essentially the same each time I practice it, the richness lies in finding newness and presence everyday in a pose I do every single time my feet touch the mat.
Some days it is a struggle. Other days everything seems to flow with ease and effortlessness.
Yesterday I went downstairs to my yoga room and laid my mat out and then just stood there thinking about how I had not practiced yoga in four days and that my body was probably going to be stiff and not as limber as it usually is (not really a good way to start a practice = with self loathing, disappointment etc). As I was flowing through my sequence I became aware that I was annoyed with my body and with myself for losing balance in my life... I even punished myself with words internally: "Four days Ashley! You're not a good yogi... etc".
The lack of flexibility in my back while in Bhujangasana (Cobra) annoyed me. Chaturanga annoyed me because my arms felt weak. When I attempted to "float" back to the front of my mat to be in Ardha Uttanasana, I literally slammed my feet down instead of lightly placing them between my hands. Ugh, the frustration! When I went into my first Uttanasana (Forward Fold) I was unable to touch my head to my knees because my hamstrings were too tight. All these things bothered me. I was aware they bothered me, but it seemed that becoming aware of it wasn't enough to make my feelings change immediately. At least not yet.
Over time I felt my hips loosen up. My head touched my knees, my shoulders gave way and my heart opened up and I became aware that my body was returning to me. I held Bakasana (Crane Pose). It felt good and I smiled.... but the battle with my ego did not end there. I started flying through my asanas... focusing on the future, on Savasana. On being done with this practice. On being able to say to myself, "Good job, you practiced, you did it". I was quickly going through poses, my teeth were tightly shut, I was not breathing properly, I was subconsciously just trying to be done. One hour later and many attempts to come back to center or be kind to myself resulted in me simply ceasing to practice. I stopped. I just stopped and I stood there and I thought to myself, "What's up with you? What do you want?" So I lied down on my mat, closed my eyes, and I did not move or think for 20 minutes. And it felt good... and after 20 minutes I sat up and decided that I would just stay here all day until I forgave myself for being so silly one hour earlier.
After Savasana I picked up my yoga notebook and my copy of the Yoga Sutra's. I have had this kind of practice before in my life and with a little research I found the following lesson:
Practice and Non-Attachment
Two core principles: Practice (abhyasa, 1.13) and non-attachment (vairagya, 1.15) are the two core principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests (1.12). It is through the cultivation of these two that the other practices evolve, by which mastery over the mind field occurs (1.2), and allows the realization of the true Self (1.3).
- Abhyasa/Practice: Abhyasa means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility (1.13). To become well established, this needs to be done for a long time, without a break (1.14). From this stance the deeper practice continues to unfold, going ever deeper towards the direct experience of the eternal core of our being.
- Vairagya/Non-attachment: The essential companion is non-attachment (1.15), learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self.
I felt so much better after reading that. I let go of my attachment to what I thought my body should feel like and what my practice should look like. Some days it's a struggle. Other days everything seems to flow with ease and effortlessness. Accepting that this particular practice wasn't like others before it, and being with whatever has changed, gave me an experience on the mat that I can utilize in my daily life. I am grateful for that.
After giving in to my body and lying down in Savasana, I found total satisfaction with scaling back, and becoming less concerned with how far I've come, and more into how deep I can go. It's never ending. Instead of spreading myself thin, I found unlimited abundance with simply being where I am.
"It's the same sequence, but everyday is different."
This mornings practice was different, just as I knew it would be. I found joy in my breath and in my body. I felt happiness that I was sore, that my hamstrings were even tighter than they were yesterday. It can be easy to get caught up in the accomplishment of postures, like I did yesterday with Bakasana and when I thought to myself that I would feel better if I could just say to myself that I did the whole practice, however with that, there is little experience with Grace. With being in the pose and the joy that I can even be in the pose, as I am.... Merely Doing a practice lacks the presence and reward of Being in the practice; of simply being.
Balancing the effort of my practice with non-doing becomes a subtle practice in and of itself.
"It's the same sequence, but everyday is different."
Now, this morning, I've come to a point where I've listened to my inner voice, and pressed on a bit further, knowing that nothing has been lost, and nothing is really gained by doing so. All is already available, and always has been.
It's so cool how our teachers in all their forms: a book, yourself, an asana... Have a way of subtly teaching us these vast and important lessons. You know what I mean? :)