December 23, 2013

What’s Faith Got to Do With Yoga Practice?

Everything takes practice

And crazy as this may sound, it’s our practice in the midst of enormous challenge, that can actually bring about the most change.

Because the very resistance threatening our growth will also be responsible for helping us develop what it is we must cultivate to move on.

As long as we practice.

I have read so many stories about Guruji’s broken English—and yet, was it really? How he answered questions almost nonsensically, with a pat: “Ah yes.  Take practice.” He invited no deep analysis and entertained little discussion. Despite the coined phrase, “bad man/lady” that’s been handed down, it certainly seemed most assuredly in jest, for Guruji by most accounts offered his students very little, and perhaps no judgment at all. His advice? You just—do.

I have no business making any presumptions here—but that’s really never stopped me before, so…here I go anyway. I truly believe Guruji had that much faith in the practice AND in his students who took consistent practice. He didn’t preach or cajole. He didn’t spend his energy convincing, condemning or even clarifying too much. Apparently he really and truly believed it all would come, in time, if students just showed up and practiced.

Yet, of all things practiced on the mat, perhaps the most challenging is faith. The practice is designed to bring us face to face with doubt, insecurity and our own very real limitations. It pushes us to our edge and keeps us in a place of continual uncertainty. Every day, we grasp for the faith to keep going despite what seem insurmountable odds against us.

No faith necessary to move forward when we know we are capable. It’s easy to believe in what we already know possible. We only develop the capacity to have faith and believe in something even bigger than ourselves as we move forward in disbelief.

But really, no faith necessary for practice at all—but rather, to practice.

You see, in our culture, we think faith must come first. We convince ourselves to trust in order to move forward.  But Guruji never asked us to have faith or believe in his way.

He only asked us, to do.

Ekam…inhale and look up though you doubt. Dve…exhale, fold while you fear. Trini…head up even if it’s hard. Chatwari…just keep breathing.

Ekam…be kind when it doesn’t seem to matter. Dve…forgive when no one asks. Trini…be generous with nothing to gain. Chatwari…love without condition.

It’s as simple as it is difficult. A decision to wake up each morning and practice it all. It’s the choice we make to keep moving forward with the guarantee of nothing at all. That’s faith.

And it’s really no different than anything else we practice.

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Alexander Misch

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