The ceasing to identify with the fluctuations of consciousness stops occurs with practice and nonattachment.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.12
Recall your first yoga practice. Perhaps it was in a gym or studio. Maybe you practiced along with a video tape or DVD. In the digital age, your first experience with yoga may have even been through an online class. Do you remember how you felt before the practice began? During the practice? At the end of your practice? Some yoga practitioners had a wonderful experience in their first yoga practice! Others’ experience may not have been so pleasant. Regardless of your first experience practicing yoga, something made you say “yes” to returning to your mat. What was it?
What is Yoga practice?
When we consider what it means to practice yoga, we often think of doing yoga poses. Practicing yoga poses, or, asanas in Sanskrit, is certainly one type of yoga practice, but there are many others! Meditation, Kirtan (call and response chanting), study of the sacred texts are just a few other yoga practices.
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a yoga practice can be pretty much anything that gives the practitioner access to create the conditions for Yoga to arise. In other words, there is something for everyone! A yoga practice is a practice that one undertakes everyday for a long time with their whole heart.
Some days our hearts are full. We look forward to our time on our mats or our meditation cushion. Other days our hearts are bruised. There may even be days that our hearts feel broken.
No matter how much we are hurting, the heart cannot break. However, we can close our hearts. We often do so when the pain we are experiencing seems unbearable. At times like these, it may be very difficult to do our practice.
Our practice opens our hearts and keeps us connected to others, our higher self, and to the Numinous. This is why Patanjali instructs us to come to our practice daily, regardless of how we feel. On days we joyfully approach our practice, it is like taking a high-quality multivitamin. The days we struggle to do our practice are the days we need it most. Then our practice becomes good medicine.
Practice for the sake of practicing.
Nonattachment means we do our practice without expectations and regardless of the outcome. If we are having a hard day, do our practice, and our practice helps us feel better, it is a wonderful thing. Our practice is just as wonderful on difficult days that we do our practice and we don’t feel better. Life is complicated and we are complex creatures capable of feeling and experiencing a vast number of things simultaneously-some of which we may not even be conscious!
Ultimately, we do not do our yoga practice because we want to “get something out of it”. We do Yoga practice because we are as much Yoga as a stone is a sculpture waiting to be fashioned into form. Yoga practice does not make us into something we are not. Rather, it removes all that we are not so we can be our true selves.
Nonattachment allows us to stay committed to our practice no matter our circumstances. Practice yoga on the days you feel wonderful. Practice on the days you don’t. Your practice will not make your life easier. Practice, and as you do, you will rise to meet the challenges you face in the fullness of who you truly are.