Review, Reconsider, Reflect!

Last week in our classes we reviewed asanas from many categories and also challenged our understanding and endurance in our inversions.

It’s very easy to become inspired and motivated with new and interesting poses to study.  It is definitely necessary to attempt new things to remain fresh in our efforts!  But the fragrance of the subject starts to permeate our effort with repeated investigation into things to which we have already been introduced.

We are told in Sutra 1.2 that Yoga is the stilling of the movements of consciousness.  Sutra 1.12 tells us that practice (Abhyasa) and detachment (Vairagya) are the means to get the job done.

These two pillars, this two fold approach, repeated inquiry into the movements of consciousness and the nature of those movements; coupled with a cultivated attitude of disinterest in things that obstruct our effort to still the mind, are the two fundamental essential ingredients.

Abhyasa is more than just practice.  It’s a specific type of practice, an activity that strives to understand and then still the movements of consciousness.  This implies we must be objective towards the activity of practice, always a bit removed from the subjectiveness that may come.  While practicing we are to study the mind, body and breath like impartial scientists.  

Vairagya is more than just being detached.  It is a specific type of renunciation where through will power we wean ourselves from cravings, and desires of all types, even the noble desires are checked.

Practice without the restraint of detachment for any rewards, can become too emotional, too prideful or dejected, like a scientist that is so invested in a particular outcome that she misses the big discovery revealed by her experiments.

By reviewing often the poses we have already started to know we can look for what we may have missed, what sort of “attachments” we may have assigned to our work thus far, and hope to unearth even more of the subtleties of the nature of our roiling consciousness.  If we understand it well, we may be able to quiet it down and get that reported glimpse of the soul!

Transforming the Fire!

Last week we all dived into back bend asanas in class.  Backbends (front openers) are difficult and stimulating – a great tonic for artic winter blues!   The warming stimulation to the body, and mind, is obvious when working these poses.

The philosophical lesson within this category of asana is complex and rewarding.  There is fear to overcome, especially if there exists a vulnerable condition in the low back or neck.  Careful attention to technique regarding those areas is needed. We learn to overcome fear by practicing with strong attention to detail and demand of ourselves a communication between vulnerable spots and our intellect.

Also the stimulation may bring on a less then desirable condition in the nerves.  We are reminded to strive to reach a sattvic state of mind, not one of hyper stimulation.  Re-read our Philosophy Corner discussion titled  “Nature and Soul… and how they try to connect“ to review the concepts of gunas.

The stimulation of the rajasic qualitiy of our nature is needed to attempt backbends, and we try to use just enough effort to get the job done, but not overdo and create an imbalance.  Using asanas with a rajasic (fiery) effort to oust sluggishness (tamasic quality) is very effective.  Then we must watch for how to transform that fiery nature into a still, stable, and alert consciousness (citta).  At that time there may be a clearer connection to our souls within.

What would that be like? No waves in consciousness!

This past week while we worked hard again on our standing poses we reviewed the definition of Yoga as put forth in Patanjali Yoga Sutra.  Patanjali in the first few Sutras actually uses Yoga as a verb.

“Yoga is the cessation of movements in the movements in the consciousness.  Then, the seer dwells in his own true spendour.  At other times, the seer identifies with the fluctuating consciousness.”  BKS Iyengar translation of Sutra I.2-1.4

Cessation or at least control of, or restraint, in the wonderings of our consciousness is what we actually try to practice!  Standing poses – while facing stiff muscles and joints, and balance difficulties – require a very steady will and mind!

The assumption here is that we, the practitioners, are deep down true enlightened “seers”!  And it’s only when we don’t have good control over the layers of our consciousness that we consider ourselves defined by our current troubles, or difficulties.

There is an occasional glimpse of that clear, still soul within…..