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Walking the Line

April 29, 2016

 

The longer I practice yoga, the more I am amazed at the never ending number of parallels that exist between a seemingly physical practice and my life away from yoga.  

 

There exists in our yoga practice, as in life, a fine line between effort and surrender.

In the oldest known texts on yoga, The Yoga Sutras, reference is made to effort as abhyasa, a consistent practice or repeated effort and detachment or surrender as vairagya.

 

Yoga Sutra 1. 12:
abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah
"Practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness" 
as translated by BKS Iyengar

Initially we may be led to believe that effort and surrender are perhaps counter-intuitive to one another - why would we remain so dedicated if we're not attached to the outcome? And yet if we look closely at our own lives, every single thing we do is a balance between holding on and still being able to let go; life itself is a process of doing your best and surrendering to whatever the outcome may be; living life to the fullest, complete in the knowledge that nothing is under our control.  And of course, this is ALWAYS easier said than done.  When life gives us lemons, it's hard not to get disappointed or upset when the result is not the same as the one we had envisioned in our minds.  

The physical aspect of yoga, the practice of asana, teaches us quite a lot about how to effort and at the same time how to surrender.  Often times, especially in a yang practice like vinyasa we can over effort and so the asana becomes rigid and hard, so hard in fact that we can loose the ability to tune in to our own experience of the pose and in the process the fluidity and lightness of our practice becomes lost.  On the flip side, we may tend towards a more passive, laid back approach, our practice lacks the fiery spark needed to put forward our best efforts in one or all of the postures, so instead we give up, or sometimes we don't try at all.  

The key in all of life, in all of yoga, and in everything we do is to find a balance between these two aspects of abhyasa and vairagya.  

The Yoga Sutras serve to remind us of the importance of hard work, that it's necessary to dedicate ourselves to living a full life, but at the same time know that effort doesn't always yield the result we hope for.  In this life, as much as we think we are - we are never in control.  

So then what happens when we let go of how we think something should look, how it should feel or how we think it should be? What happens then is we find freedom.  A liberation from our own preconceptions so we can observe that experience - whether it's good or bad - for exactly WHAT it is, for what is occurring in that moment.

 

We no longer need to be afraid of trying new things for fear of failure, we can simply start to learn from our own experience and when that happens, our potential may even become limitless!  

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