What is Practice?
See what gives you vitality and joy.
Sutra 1.13: Ardent effort to retain the peaceful flow of mind free of roaming tendencies is abhyasa.(samadhi pada, translation by Pandit Rajmani tigunait)
Students often ask, "What do you mean by a home practice? What should I be doing?" In college, I ran a marathon. I had exercise-induced asthma at the time and felt if I could run 26.2 miles without medication I could get off the steroids, pills, and inhalers I had been using for years. I created a practice schedule which consisted of a daily warm up and stretching, every other day weightlifting and different running workouts and a cool down. To assist in minimizing injuries, every other day I would do pool workouts and kick boxing. And I would take one day off, to go for long walks and visualize the 9 minute mile pace and my finishing time. As they say, I kept my eye on the prize.
Yoga is the same. Practice helps one to attain the goal of yoga: to settle the mind stuff. The eight limbs of yoga, even though written in a specific order, give us many ideas of the practice to do simultaneously. Where the 8-limbs of yoga are found, in the yoga sutras Patanjali gives us a road map of the human consciousness and what holds us back from the prize. They are the five afflictions, I will share two: ignorance and the sense of I-amness. We pour ourselves into many things: doing this, going there, taking care of others or spending hours in leisure. Then we forget to fill back up with who we truly are, that Devine teacher of luminous peace and joy. We are not the desires of the material world, a mom, a yoga studio owner, a husband but “an island of excellence” (introduction of the Secret of the Yoga Sutras Samadhi Pada). It is like drinking from an empty cup, our thirst cannot be quenched from air.
But the daily practice quenches the desire of thirst, our physical, mental and spiritual need. Our daily time of practice keeps us coming back to the spring of truth that we are none of these titles but connected to God. The fifth niyama or observance is Ishvara Pranidhanda, the trustful surrender to the Devine being. This can be done on a mat, with other people or while alone. This observance is so difficult but such a great reminder that the practice is so vast, to be done at every moment of the day during our waking and sleeping hours. For some the goal of Samadhi may come faster than others and for some it may take a long time, maybe many lives but we need to keep our eye on the price. We need to take time to collect these pieces of our life, these titles we connect to, our daily tasks and come back to our sacred self and the most important thing to make ourselves whole. The practice can take many shapes, but the goal is the same, Samadhi. For some it is moving, sitting and using japa, breath work, scripture reading, chanting and working with the yamas and niyamas in daily life. It can be eliminating watching TV, only checking the phone at certain times, get the appropriate amount of sleep and looking at what time one eats. The things we take into our body through the senses effect the mind and is a very important part of our practice. You can tell when you start living your practice or have a practice that works for you because the sensation of vitality, energy and vigor are there.
Try to take the practice home with you. Explore what this means to you, what is your practice to connect to that luminous joy and feel the sensation of vitality.
Learn more about yoga and the BambooMoves Forest Hills location.