Abhyasa and vairagya; the value of steady effort.
With the new moon in Taurus, and spring in the air we are invited to come home to our bodies. To celebrate sensation, and cultivate a connection with our own physicality and the earth beneath our feet. It's a time to plant seeds both within and outside ourselves and to take extra time to enjoy the grass beneath our feet.
The grounded, and humble energy that taurus embodies is expanded upon by Patanjali as he introduces the two pillars of Yoga Sadhana (daily practice), Abhyasa and Vairagya at the forefront of his Yoga sutras.
We are all perhaps most familiar with sutra 1.2: Yoga is the 'cessations of the fluctuations of the mind', but what follows is a little less quoted. Patanjali gives us the route! The formula isn't coded in a sequences of postures but rather the cultivation of two qualities: steady practice or abhyasa, and vairagya; centeredness and dispassion.
Specifically, Patanjali describes Abhyasa as "the means that are employed in order to remain in a state of union, or harmony with one's own self." and further that for this practice to be successful it must be practiced for a long time, without break, with proper honour and respect, or in the words of Patabhi Jois "Practice and all is coming...". Abhyasa is action that is not easily distracted, or disrupted, and that creates its own momentum, as we learn to be present in our practice and to free ourselves from the notions of our "goals" and end-points, so our practice deepens and deepens, and, ironically, our goals are quickly reached, and easily embraced! We reach a point quite unintentionally, where the simple pleasure of our practice becomes all that is required, and any effort we once felt getting ourselves to our mat fades away.
Vairagya describes the redirection of our energies fully inwards. In this way our focus is no longer distracted and our reserves in practice dwindled by pursuing our "ragas" or our colourings; our desires, and our ego drives. We are not practicing because it feels good, or because we attain certain benefits from the practice, but we are practicing because it has become the bedrock of our everyday life. At this point we see less and less that our practice is a projection of our needs and wants to meet certain ideals and aesthetics, and that it has become a lense of self expression. A tool that allows our atman, our individual soul, to shine through unhindered. Our practice reveals and reveres our true self. Harmony occurs without effort, because it is no longer something we are striving for, but an inevitable result of our dedication.
So, where do we begin?
... the path is beautifully open!
Lets rephrase Sadhana as a daily commitment to self. It doesn't need to be glamorous or complicated, simply consistent and internally oriented. There are more demands on our time and our attention than ever before...so it also needs to be realistic!
1) What time/space can you realistically set aside each and every day?
2) What commitment would you like to make in that time? Perhaps a daily pranayama practice, the recitation of a mantra or an intention, or a simple sequence of postures that either prepare you for your day or for your evening?
3) Do it!