It’s Just Breathing
December 2, 2012 § 4 Comments
Wow, two posts in one day – you guys are in luck! 😉
I’ve spent the past week at a course learning about the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras, taught by Nagaraja Rao. He’s erudite, lively and highly entertaining so don’t miss him if he passes through your area.
In preparation for each class, I’m re-reading Chip Hartranft’s commentary and the following passage about effort (abhyasa) really stuck with me:
A special type of effort is cultivated and driven by abhyasa, in which we practice to return to a point of focus without exertion. Instead, we come to relax the grip of wanting, aversion, or clinging to self that would pull attention away in the first place and also tend to generate subliminal bodymind tension. Thus the effort from abhyasa is not overt in the same way as conventional physical or mental effort. These inevitably reinforce one’s sense of self and cause(s) suffering…That is, the more force we use, the more it feels like we are doing something. As insight deepens, awareness recognizes that all effort is fraught with conditioning of its own and therefore sows the seeds of future suffering in consciousness. At the final stages of stilling, all action ceases. So abhyasa might better be described as “subtle effort”, focused on the cultivation of effortlessness.”
~”The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali”, Chip Hartranft, page 6.
I applied this concept of effortlessness to the led classes on Friday and today. And you know what? I think I’ve found the key to an enjoyable led class: just breathe. Don’t anticipate how hard it’s going to be. Don’t push yourself to keep up with the class. Don’t feel like you have something to prove. Don’t worry if you can’t do the full expression of Supta Kurmasana or can’t stay up for the full count in Sirsasana. Just focus on the breath, keeping it deep and relaxed. It made all the difference between finishing as an exhausted heap and walking out of the room bright-eyed and ready to face the day. I can safely say that the led classes are turning into the highlight of my week now.
Isn’t there an SKPJ quote somewhere that says yoga is all about breathing, the rest is just bending, or something like that? Now I get it.