Asana 3: tato dvandvanabhighatah

Tato dvandvānabhighātaḥ PYS II.48

When posture is mastered, there is a cessation of the disturbances caused by the pairs of opposites…whether physical, mental or spiritual

Most translations go on to give examples of opposites. Common ones are: like/dislike, love/hate, relative/universal, hot/cold… And that’s where I got stuck. I, like you, have noticed how yoga has influenced my choices and my outlook over the years. I am less attached to my likes and dislikes, habitual preferences that create cycles of suffering are easier to see. All of them are still there of course, but I get how asana embued with the qualities of the two preceding sutras work towards the cessation this sutra indicates.  Except for hot/cold.

I really really don’t like the cold. If I could transplant my family, close loved ones, and yoga community to New Orleans tomorrow, I would do it. Without thinking twice.

2059-fall-tree-800x600Fall is often a challenging time for me.  Despite the beauty New York offers at this time, it’s all a subtle reminder that winter is coming. cold winter2

All of which meant this particular duality bore closer inspection, and I happened to re-cross its path during late winter, so it was great timing.

While walking down the street I realized I could, in fact, diminish the cold. I could begin ujjayi breathing. I could focus on a mantra. I could draw my body in towards the central line. I could catch myself before I start to complain about the cold to myself or someone else – which only ever makes it more present, entrenched, and generally worse. The cold could be like another teacher, who I would not speak poorly about either in its presence or not. I could stop making it bad and just let it be itself. As I would let a tree be its tree self, my mom herself, my dog himself. I could also stay right in the uncomfortableness until it shifts, without trying to fix it in any particular way – like pigeon pose and how my outer hip felt when I first learned it.

Asana had actually taught me valuable and multiple ways to deal with it.

This was a reminder, which we must revisit again and again, that asana and yoga never change anything or anyone external to us. The only thing asana and yoga ever work on is ourselves. You diminish the dualities, they do not diminish.

To work with this in your next asana class, or really at any time, watch your self-talk for dualistic language especially of good/bad.  Watch for trying to fix bad with forcing good, or vice versa.  Watch your conversation indicators of listening for dualistic tones, and figure out how to make your language match your yoga.

lovehate37-thumb“Who we truly are goes beyond all polarity, including the polarity of love and hate.” Ram Dass

In case you missed the first two installments of asana: one and two.

Karma Yoga Sutra Study Online

So, success of the real kind this time…

October’s Sutra Study Session on Karma is now up on the Workshop page (via podbean).  Scroll to the bottom for the link and instructions.

(Tech-savy people are welcome to offer any improvement suggestions on the system:)  )

The last Fall Yoga Sutra Study session will be next Saturday, the 20th of November at Mala Yoga.  We will be going over the idea of the Householder Yogi, the practices, the sutra references, and, as always, how Yoga remains a relevant vibrant practice for our daily life.

Let me know if you have any questions. Sign up at Mala Yoga to reserve a space.

Hope to see you there!

Leave Wanting at the Door

Asana can either reinforce our convictions, habits, thought patterns, or be an opportunity to evolve.  The next time you practice, read the following excerpt from a conversation between Michael Stone and Chip Hartranft:

“Let’s say I’ve come to a yoga studio and class is starting. Have I checked all my wanting and not wanting at the door? No, I’m still the same old self, fearing pain and hoping for gratification. Now when I get the euphoric endorphin rushes that come with practice, I’m going to mistake them for the goal, and each time I do yoga I’m going to unconsciously strive to recreate that pleasure. So Patanjali is saying that the relationship to the body must be very carefully cultivated. The body is the biggest part of the world that we know. And the world of the body is immense. The body is an enormous universe in and of itself.” – C.H.

In the moments you are sitting on your mat, before class begins, mentally re-enter and check wanting at the door. Spend a class getting to know your body within the space this creates.  Allow the typical asana checklist you employ to stay at the door as well, and consider, instead, the question “What does it feel like inside Virabhadrasana II? What does is feel like inside paschimottanasana?”

Repetition is the format that our brains and body respond to, and is the way that new neural, emotion, and physical pathways are formed. Evolve, by continually re-entering and checking your wants. Continually asking what it feels like inside the pose.  Ask, also, what is inside the pose with you right now that you could check at the door.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra I.21-22 “For those who seek liberation wholeheartedly, realization is near. How near depends on whether the practice is mild, moderate, or intense.”