Deepening Your Practices
by Jody Myers
Many of us are attracted to yoga by being initially drawn to the practice of asanas. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, when asanas are mastered, they become ‘steady and comfortable’ — a wise approach to adopt throughout our yoga path.
Steady and comfortable is really an invitation to relax, yet remain patient and consistent in the endeavour to establish ourSelves on a level of greater freedom and consciousness. This steadiness and comfort are not only meant for the actual yoga practice session, but for life off- the-yoga-mat as well.
Yoga is about the deep integration of our worldly and spiritual realities. Spiritual awakening is not possible without the patient application of a discipline, which focuses our spiritual forces and channels this energy into physical reality, where we can experience the graces of spirit through our five senses. The value of relaxation – both physical and mental — invites consistency and balance to our efforts.
Experts in the arts, sciences or professional sports, understand the power of steady physical and mental relaxation. This is one of the essential keys to mastering our emotions and tapping into our higher faculties.
Some people might think I have a certain mastery in some poses, or that I seem to be mostly a relaxed or balanced person. The reality is that I am initially not steady and comfortable in many of my postures. My body usually responds with discomfort as I test my boundaries, whether it is easy or difficult.
But I love it, and am consistently learning to move my attention beyond the initial discomforts of bodily sensation and mental unrest, and into a deeper ‘spiritual’ awareness where I find peace — even bliss! In my yoga practice, both the spiritual and the physical manifest simultaneously. It’s simply a matter of where to place most of my attention.
It is fascinating that life also presents similar and parallel challenges. My emotions often react strongly as my mind interprets any given experience. Even after 26 years of consistent yoga practice, some of the same mental patterns and habits of reaction, still occur as I go about my daily life.
The only recourse I have in those situations, is to draw from the depth of my yoga practice — to breathe, relax and let go of reaction, judgement and other mental habits, so I can remain in the heart. Then invariably, wisdom and understanding come to the forefront of my awareness.
One sure sign of progress is that I recover to the integrated present moment much quicker than I once used to — no more hanging onto angry reactions or judgements, the residue of which once lasted for days in my system. A little wisdom is dawning. When I keep my mind steady and relaxed and choose to not indulge in my reactions, I create the platform for spiritual guidance to seep through. Thena gradual maturity unfolds and the present moment becomes more subtle, far more empowering, inspiring and even magical.
In the midst of physical practices, if we can shift our emphasis past the physical (by mentally relaxing) and invite ourselves into the deeper experience of the beyond (into a steadiness of the inner being), we transcend matter and time. This is where the real juice in yoga exists and where we can go beyond our perceived mental and physical limitations.
Once we truly get the connection to this deeper, more blissful inner dimension (not theoretically, but experientially), we become more fearless in everyday life. Within our range is greater freedom, better health, more integration, more enlightenment and the likelihood of behaving more naturally in the midst of our mundane reality.
As the old saying goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”
Life continues, but the difference is in how we are in relation to it and perceive it. We walk away from our yoga mat somewhat more immersed in the Bliss that is always present in any given moment. Our experience is then reflected back to us, as we interact with the external reality.
Gradually over time and patient practice, our chemistry changes and we become transformed. We tune in to a new and lighter frequency where miracles are possible. This is not a linear progression, so we have to apply a steady intentionto practice. Eventually, this moment expands into a more timeless state of Being.
Within the yin and yang of life, I sometimes practice for many days in a row with steadiness, inspiration and enthusiasm. Then I can swing back to resistance (even after 26 years), as life changes and new layers of resistance emerge — my body and mind both protesting the feelings of physical and emotional intensity and the routine of daily practice — and I’m not even trying to push it into anything unnatural!
I still prefer pleasure, which ultimately limits me. In the swing between the yin and the yang of my mind, I have come to accept myself and my ancient pattern of resistance, and I have learned to hold the intention of keeping a ‘steady, comfortable’ consistent attitude toward myself.
This self-compassion joyfully draws me back to my yoga mat, where I seldom miss some form of daily practice. Structure is added to my practice by doing yoga routines that include postures which are not my favorite poses.
Faith in ourselves and the yogic path will attract inspiration. We cannot grow to be our authentic free self without the discipline of some sort of holistic, spiritual or heart-centred practice. This is taught by the masters of any scientific, artistic, athletic or spiritual discipline.
The unique thing about yoga is that we need nothing extra for the journey other than our own body and mind. Working patiently, we can purify both.
As we master asanas, we can experience steadiness and comfort (even if we are a little physically uncomfortable), and then directly channel spirit, to live with freedom and joy.
Spirit calls us to be authentic, to manifest our natural, magical, divine Self and then to walk freely, with creativity, prosperity, self expression… and ultimately LOVE among the worlds.