Since attending the Intermediate Power Yoga Workshop recently, I've picked up The Essential YogaSutra again. YogaSutra stands as one of the essential text for aspiring students of yoga. One would think book-reading will be the easiest part of yoga practice. Alas, I've been reading this book very slowly since December last year. I am an inexperienced student, and a lot in the YogaSutra still eludes me. I will need to re-read the book many times before I can claim to understand it any better. Still, one has to start somewhere.
The version I've finally settled on is the translation by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Michael Roache and his partner Christie McNally. Roache and McNally attempt to make the YogaSutra accessible to the common readers, and they provided some very down to earth commentary on the sanskrit verses. Still, it isn't as smooth going as I have hoped it would be. Then, there are some parts of the text that just make sense immediately.
I.12~13 Stopping it requires constant practice,
and giving up your attachments.
Constant practice means
striving to be there.
In a general sense, "constant practice" here means the willingness to work very hard to reach our perfect destiny, far beyond the mistakes our mind now makes. Quite simply, we will never be able to complete all the hard work needed to reach our destiny if we don't have a very strong motivation for doing so.
This motivation comes to all of us at some point in our lives. Most often it is some kind of personal disaster or tragedy: the person we most love dies or leaves us, we find out we have cancer ― anything that wakes us up to what really matters. People are in pain, and it's up to us to help them. It is our destiny to be the one who helps them.
We begin with a daily inner practice. It will always include three essential elements: being careful never to hurt others; learning to pray or meditate; and relentlessly exploring the question of where things really came from.
This part sums up the motivation that drives my own practice. Yes, I did come to yoga during a turning point in my life. Yes, this passage speaks of what motivates me for a spiritual practice.
While it's great to be able to see progress in your practice, it does take time and you just have to allow the poses to unfold in its own time. In a previous post, Stefanie commented that gardening is similar to yoga, and I agree: Yoga is like gardening ― you can provide the best conditions for growth ― good quality seeds, sufficient sunlight, good soil, enough water and fertilizer ― but after you have done all you can, you just have to step aside and allow nature to take its course.
Similarly, we need to make great efforts with our practice ― provide the optimum conditions for growth ― after that, we step aside, "giving up your attachments" as they say. Attachments here refer to wanting events as how we prefer them, rather than things as they are. It is asked of us to trust, to surrender to the unfolding of karma.
For us mere mortals, it can often seem like the hardest thing to do. How do you work for something without wanting to see results? Surely we need a goal to work for? I often find it frustrating to try so hard and not see the reward. And those are the moments when I find myself losing direction in my practice, when I focus on the rewards rather than the practice itself.
But note: there are work to be done even as you step back to allow nature to take its course; You still need to tend to the garden: weeding, watering, adding the fertilizer, keeping the pests away. Similarly, you still have to practice, to pay attention, and keep the negative influences at bay. Yoga demands this balance of effort with surrender. No wonder I am so lousy at balance poses.
T. S. Eliot reminds us: “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”
So, let us just try. Let go. For now, I'm trying to keep these thoughts in mind: "We begin with a daily inner practice. It will always include three essential elements: being careful never to hurt others; learning to pray or meditate; and relentlessly exploring the question of where things really came from." That's already quite a lot for a lifetime.