Practice, Practice and ….. Where are you going ?

Via on Oct 29, 2011

A few months back I faced a peculiar question from a participant of my Yoga workshop. She mentioned that her “practice” was not improving.  She has been a yoga enthusiast and a teacher for more than 10 years and when I asked her what was it that she meant by practice, she said “her head stand was not good enough”.

The famous yoga guru, Shri. Pattabhi Jois, once said “practice, practice and everything is coming.” This single beautiful sentence has probably launched a thousand yoga studios across the world. Probably the word “practice” has been literally translated from the Sanskrit word “sadhana ” or “abhyasa”.

I wonder, are we reading the word “practice” in the right spirit? Do we all need to widen our definition of “practice” in the context of Yoga ?

Yoga is a science of gradual evolution towards our True nature of loving, empowered and energized Being. Following the methods of Yoga, in a wholesome sense over a period of time under the guidance of a teacher and being open to the grace is called “Yoga Sadhana”.

The Asana aspect of Hatha Yoga seems to be dominating the field of sadhana in recent years. People derive a great sense of joy and pride mastering asanas. It is very easy to get caught up refining the asanas for years and conveniently ignoring the field of psychological exploration.

As we start practicing asanas our self awareness increases. We start understanding the ways of our body and it’s sensations and signals. This very awareness, if encouraged, starts percolating to the zones of mind. The practice of asana is a doorway to the expanse of the mind. Thus, if the asanas are practiced correctly with awareness and under an able guide, they would definitely loosen up the dense subconscious tendencies of our mind, which will result in some deeper psychological issues to surface. This is when an honest and sincere review of the issues that come up should be conducted. This is a part of the process of refinement (sadhana) according to Hatha Yoga.

This refinement or transformation happens gradually and subtly. If the Yogi is involved “unconsciously” or mechanically in the sadhana there is a danger of getting “stuck”, leading to frustration, competition, over compensation and in the end dropping out of the path.

In fact somewhere deep down within we know there are skeletons in our mental closet and that’s why for years we “entertain” ourselves with the asana practice in order to avoid facing the fears within. It is easy to meander on the surface of yogic exploration by trying to get into that “scorpion” and conveniently avoid facing the “sting of limitedness”. This is where we need to gather some faith, motivation and courage to face what lies beneath. This is a major challenge for many yoga enthusiasts.

Here are some tips to help us avoid this trap

The Yoga sadhana has the inherent power to gradually take you from feeling of limitedness of body-mind complex to the final stage of identification with the True Self. That is why it is of at most importance to have a wider view of sadhana, wider in the sense of the sadhana being the means to liberation of body-mind complex and not just muscular stretches.

The Yogas are vast and encompass a variety of methods to suit variety of temperaments. If you know what kind of temperament you are then it’s better to stick to the Yoga conducive to your temperament. If you are confused, talk to your teacher and explore the variety of ways of yogic self – transformation.

Be patient, because on spiritual path it is not about how fast you get there.

Have faith in Yoga, the Guru, and your own self effort.

Since the asana part of yoga is practiced also in social set ups like yoga studios etc, it is natural that the mind would start competing. Therefore it is necessary to remember that yoga is the process of “individual” refinement. So just keep your eyes on your own sadhana and do not get confused or distracted by others sadhana.

It would not be wrong on my part if I said that Sadhana is a process of trade. Be sure to give something to receive something, this is how energy is transformed and karmas are balanced. That’s why the process of sadhana has also been called as a Yajna or a sacrifice. The Yogi voluntarily offers his/her negatives into the fire (tapas) of his self effort and this is balanced by the reward of feeling and being liberated.

Finally, look at Sadhana, self exploration with joy and a sense of wonderment. It is beautiful how life brings us exactly the things that we need to learn. Till we learn, the experiences keep coming again and again. This is the basis of the Divine plan for us. In our myopia we just don’t see it. Every hardship is nothing but freedom in disguise. If we view life in this way, life in itself becomes a Sadhana.

 

About Prasad Rangnekar

Prasad Rangnekar is from Mumbai, India and started his yoga explorations at age of 9 with his first asana class. Finding his first asana class “familiar,” he explored the width and depth of yoga initially with his mother and in later ages with different teachers and schools across India. Yoga grew on him and he grew with yoga. Today, Prasad travels across 15 countries teaching the Self-empowering and Self-transformational aspects of Yoga through his workshops and retreats. www.yogaprasad.in

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14 Responses to “Practice, Practice and ….. Where are you going ?”

  1. Valerie Carruthers says:

    Beautiful, Prasad. "Compare-contrast-compete." This has been the American mantra.We always want to look like supermodels. It's so easy to carry over that mindset into asana practice and aspire to match ourselves pose for pose withthe hyperflexible yoginis on the covers of Yoga Journal. And you're right about studio settings underscoring that mindset. Especially if the student is already a driven Type A personality. Studios, even ashrams and spiritual centers by the way, are wonderful crucibles to bring that out and then burn it up. Thank you for a great article.

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom Prasad. Much love.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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  3. amj says:

    every hardship is nothing but freedom in disguise…..this is exactly where i am in my life practice. thank you for putting that into words that resonate for me….

  4. Great article. So needs to be said. I've been practicing yoga for awhile now, and while my body is not the bendiest, it has had a huge impact on my psyche.

    However there are times when I'm in the middle of asana practice and I hit my limitations in a forward bend or the like and I can see my mind getting all in a twist about why it's still "so hard" for me, an "why am I not bendier yet?", and "why's it look so easy for all those other yoga teachers on YouTube?". Going down this line of thoughts makes me feel like shit, and has nothing at all to do with my actual sadhana.

    That said, I am finding in my practice that there is a correlation between tension held in the body and samskaras held in the psyche. As the deeper aspects of psyche are revealed and released, so too do certain tightnesses in the body melt away.

  5. This was a great article, kudos to the Elephant. Its a challenge to move away from the superficial aspects of yoga, those are the ones that are widely marketed. In my practice I try not to focus on perfecting the poses so I can feel accomplished – I say try because those thoughts do creep in ever so often. The problem is many teachers focus on the cheap thrill of asana perfection. They set the tone.

  6. [...] Practice, Practice and ….. Where are you going ? [...]

  7. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage. xx

  8. Claire says:

    Enjoyed the post, it reminds me that it's not a race but a process.

  9. [...] doesn’t make me feel less than in anyway, and I’m well aware that the point of yoga is not flexibility, rather flexibility is a by-product of [...]

  10. yogi tobye says:

    Yes indeedy! Hatha yoga is a purification of the body, a balancing of Ida and pingala so that one-pointed concentration becomes possible. Whether one thinks their headstand is good enough or, not, is irrelevant.

    Thanks Prasad, I completely missed this article last week but now seems like the perfect time to find it!

  11. I enjoy, lead to I discovered just what I used to be looking for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

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  13. [...] The real awakening however, did not happen when my legs folded neatly into lotus, but rather when I discovered the connection of where I was blocked internally. That single moment opened a gateway in deepening my practice. [...]

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