June 2007 – Abhyasa and Vairagya

Abhyasa and Vairagya

Practice and detachment

Cultivated effort over a long period of time, this is the definition in the Yoga Sutras of Practice (YS 1:13).  And what should we do if we struggle with this?   The following verse (YS 1:14) states that if we practice positively for a long time, constantly and continuously with earnest attention, we become firmly grounded in it—and from that work arises self confidence and self-security.
While Nancy was here she emphasized the importance of regular practice.  If we start with something we can see ourselves doing (for example a home practice of Surya Namaskar A and the three lotus flowers on the days we do not  come to the studio) and be consistent—we will become firmly grounded in it and can grow from there.  Sure you will get some benefits from yoga by coming once or twice each week, but to really grow and receive all that yoga has to offer requires a steady consistent practice.  This is a quote from a friend of mine:

  • Practice once or twice each week and you will feel better
  • Practice three or four times each week and your body and attitudes will start to change
  • Practice 5 to 6 days each week and you will transform your life!

The shortened home practice counts as practice!  Just begin with what you can do and the energy of that effort will carry you through to the next step!

Abhyasa – keep coming back (an attitude of persistent effort)
Liken your practice to house training a puppy; you don’t beat the puppy or shame the puppy, you just keep bringing him back.  This is your practice—just keep coming back.
One of the most important principals of living your yoga is that of continuing to practice without a break.  Often we get started, practice for a few weeks or months and the stop due to some life situation.  Then we start over again, while it is good to start again it is better to choose a level of practice that you know you can maintain without a break.  If you set that bar too high—for example 1-1/2 hours every day when you know you can not maintain that, you are setting yourself up to break your practice.  It’s far better to choose an amount of time you can consistently practice, on the days you do not come to the studio set a time in your routine to just practice your 5 Surya Namaskar and the three closing Lotus Flowers.  Pay attention to how much better you feel even with just a little yoga practice.  And remember this is just practice; just because you feel tight or tired does not mean you should skip your practice that day—that is when you need it the most—the real game you are practicing for??  Is when you step off your mat.
“First you make the habit, then the habit makes you.”  Quote from Yogi Bhajan

NEVER GIVE UP (abhyasa)– ALWAYS LET GO (vairgya)
They work together: Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way.

Vairgya = Detachment, desirelessness or dispassion, neutrality or absence of coloring, without attraction or aversion
Success at yoga—or any endeavor—takes practice and detachment.  Detachment is detaching yourself from the rewards of your practice.  Even though you may have the immediate gratification of feeling good after your practice—this is seldom enough to carry you through a busy day to your yoga mat . . . Too many times we get caught up with doing something for a specific result, then if we do not see these specific results quick enough we stop—and this is a shame as there are many other benefits we will miss out on—this happens both on and off the mat,  Being detached from your works, your gifts, your endeavors—is the recipe for happiness, if we expect something from our works and don’t get it we tend to not be happy!  Practice without having to be rewarded is Detachment.  Practice this on your mat and it will be easier to carry your practice of detachment out into the “real game”, life itself.

Act not for outcome, but from intention.  The question was posed to me about karma and vairgya; if we are doing an act of service because we want to attain good karma then we are creating an attachment—and this puts us right back into the cycle of wanting something from our actions.  So if we are doing a good service expecting good karma in return and we do not get what we think is good karma then we will stop doing the good service . . . Acting from the intension of offering all our works to the Highest Good will produce more good karma than being attached to producing good karma!  And it is the higher road.  Detachment is a letting go, just let go do not try to control the outcome—remove us, our ego-nature, from the picture.  Remember, in the end, it is not about us anyway(!), we are just here to perform our dharma (particular function or role).  It’s that simple and completely joyous 🙂

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