In my favorite sutra, Sutra 1.12, of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali refers to Abhyasa or Persevering Practice. Basically a Persevering Practice refers to dedicating yourself to your practice for a long period of time. Then, and only then, will you experience the Yogic state of bliss. The question is, what is a Persevering Practice?
When we discussed this sutra in my monthly Sutra discussion group, I asked everyone if they felt they had a “Persevering Practice”. All but one said something to the effect of, “Gee, I know I don’t do enough…” Frankly, I was surprised that one person said, “I love my practice. It is exactly what I need right now.” You know why I was surprised? In all my years of teaching (20+), I have never heard someone say they were satisfied with their practice. Everyone always assumes they are suppose to be doing more and wish they could. They aren’t doing enough asana is usually the cry. They aren’t doing it daily, or they don’t have a long enough practice or they are not challenging themselves enough.
I have two ideas I want you to keep in mind as you move forward with your own Pesevering Practice:
- Patanjali doesn’t define “Pesevering Practice” other than dedicating yourself to your practice. He doesn’t say 7 days a week, 3 classes a week, 3 hard poses per practice, or even how long a practice should be. Pesevering Practice is simply being devoted to your practice, honoring it, creating space in your life for it, whatever “it” is. Which leads me to:
- There are actually four very distinct and powerful aspects to a yoga practice: Asana practice (the poses we are all so familiar with which strenthen our physical body), Breathing practice (or Pranayama, which pacifies the nervous system and clears the energy body), Meditation (which clears the mental body), and the study of the Yogic Precepts, philosophy (which moves us into our higher mind because it calls us to challenge our long-held beliefs.) I will write more about the four legs of a Home Practice in another post. For now, realize that having a “Persevering Practice” doesn’t necessarily mean hitting your mat every day for 60 min of heart pounding asana. Spending a day with your attention on compassion is practicing yoga. Sitting to gently focus on your breath to calm your mind is practicing yoga.
So, while I must admit, I, too, am one of the masses, I do wish I had a bigger yoga practice. I began yoga when I was single and living alone. I had nothing but time to practice, practice, practice. Now, with small children and a business to maintain, my time is more limited. At the same time, I can confidently say I have not gone one day of my 20+ year practice without practicing yoga. I bet you can, too!