New Year. New Intentions. And this year, 2017, I have begun a year long commitment to an ashtanga yoga practice. Why? So many reasons…strengthen my physical practice, go inward, generate prana…but in truth it is to meditate. I have trouble sitting for any length of time because shortly into it a small cramp, tinge or pain will show up. Sure the mental aspect of meditation is the eventual challenge but finding a relaxed seat is my most pressing matter. Our issues are in our tissues.
The great sage Patanjali revealed in Yoga Sutra 2.46, Sthira sukhamasanam, that posture is to be cultivated with the two qualities of steadiness and ease. However our physical bodies are ravaged with tension and physical and mental toxins resulting in this struggle to find a stable comfortable seat. So we come to the physical practice of yoga postures to summon pain as our teacher. Bending, twisting and folding cleanse the liver, spleen, intestines and various organs in the physical body. Longer holds access our emotional body. When we stop trying to avoid the pain we tap into our ability to transform tension into attention. Through focus rather than fidgeting we access ease. Asana provides us the vehicle to release the anxieties and neuromuscular patterning that have vitrified in place.
Tapas is the the heat generated by the yogic practice that burns off our impurities. When our will conflicts with the desire of our mind an internal “fire” is created which illuminates and burns up our mental and physical impurities. By learning to accept pain within the safe space of yoga we learn to create a pause between the stimulus of pain and the response in our body and mind that wants to avoid or run away. As the late BKS Iyengar so eloquently stated, “Life without tapas is like a heart without love.” This balance of tension and ease in stillness is the state in which we resonate in our own true nature, our own true brilliance. Shine on yogis, Namaste.