Yoga Vita

Musings on Yoga, Life, and the Yoga Life


Abhyasa and Vairagya

According to Patanjali’s yoga sutras, yoga is achieved through abhyasa and vairagya.  That gets me to thinking. . .

Abhyasa: Determined effort, practice, discipline. Check. After a long time of really struggling to maintain a regular practice in the midst of school, work, travel, relationships, etc, I have finally come to a place where I approach practice as a top priority and I am practicing sincerely six days a week. I’m putting a huge amount of effort into my practice, and I feel good about that.

Vairagya: Non-attachment, renunciation, surrender. Urm. . . Somehow it seems that the more I put into abhyasa, the harder vairagya becomes. I’ve put so much energy into practicing every day and keeping myself motivated to get out of bed and onto the mat, that I find I’ve kind of lost sight of vairagya. Instead, I’ve gotten a little tied up in “improving” my postures and making external progress.  As in: I’ve put in all this time, I want something out of it!  And that just leads me to being even more stuck.  So vairagya is the word of the day for me.  Non-attachment, renunciation, surrender.

I happened to find a good article on this topic by Judith Hanson Lasater that I read a while ago, really liked, and kind of forgot about.  It was nice to come across it again.  I feel like even just refreshing my memory on the concept of abhyasa and vairagya has helped a bit, and tomorrow begins a new week of yoga, so we’ll see where this goes.




Yesterday someone linked to my blog by searching the phrase “yoga butt.” Haha! Good luck, pilgrim, Seeker of Yoga Butt.

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In fact, come to think of it, this post itself will boost my stats simply because it contains the word “butt.” Brilliant. Butt, ass, booty! Read my blog!

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Update: Indeed, today has been my most-viewed day ever–even better than my original butt post.  LOL! 

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Beautiful Vinyasas

This video is rad–it’s from way back in 1993 (I was 10–yup) and has Maty Ezraty, Richard Freeman, Karen Haberman, Chuck Miller, Tim Miller, and Eddie Stearn all practicing Primary with Guruji. Apparently they filmed the Primary Series video and the Secondary Series video all in one go, but of course they all look amazing throughout both. It’s actually terribly boring to watch one of these videos in its entirety, but they’re a good reference for the correct technique, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I wanted to put up this clip to provide an example of graceful, effortless vinyasas. Aaah. That’s what I’m working towards.

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If I believed in a personal god-type-thingy, I would say she/he/it brought jump-backs into my life just to torture me. But I don’t. Instead, jump-backs just exist. And they torture me.

Now the funny thing is that I’m making good, even, satisfying progress on my jump-thoughs–they’re solid and graceful and I feel like I’m not too far off from completing them with straight legs. But with jump-backs, it’s like something is missing. Well, something is missing, and that’s ab strength. Sigh. I’ve started practicing with two-inch-high blocks, though, and I may be starting to see the light. I still don’t quite have the ab strength to get the lift I need, but I feel like I’m finally going through the correct motions, even if I still have to drag my feet on the floor before I can kick back into chaturanga dandasana. The modified jump-backs I was doing before were pretty much right at my level of ability, but they weren’t helping me move on. What I’m doing now is allowing me to make an itty bitty bit of progress every day. Even if it’s still kind of torturous. It’s hard to find the right balance of effort and relaxation with this kind of thing, because I don’t know where to back off. I pulled a shoulder muscle by working a little too enthusiastically on jump-thoughs the other day, and it’s driving me to Ibu, rare enough for me. But I’m still working on them.

Another thing I’m not sure of is what kind of role the bandhas play in jump-backs and jump thoughs. I assume they’re involved, but I don’t know how. Time for some research.


Ahh, Home Practice

I LOVE my home practice. I practice at home about one to two times a week, and it is such a nice change of pace from my yoga shala practice, which I do about four to five times a week. Sometimes in my home practice I just do plain old full Primary like I do at the shala, yet the feeling of it is different because I’m better able to tune into the sensations in my body and breath. Sometimes I do fun little sequences that I have made up for myself. If I’ve been feeling a little tight or closed off in the chest, I’ll do a series to open up my chest and shoulders and to invite deep breathing and relaxation. If I’ve been overworking my legs and hips in Primary Series, I’ll do a practice full of hip openers and hamstring stretches. And sometimes, even if I’ve practiced all week, I’ll do a little restorative session on Sunday just because it feels so good!

I really love that I’ve gotten to a place where I have both the confidence and the discipline to create a practice for myself and follow through with it. I like the balance I find in practicing 70-80% traditional Ashtanga and 20-30% self-styled flow yoga. I still feel connected to a rigorous yoga tradition, yet I have the freedom to listen to my body, to listen to my heart, and give myself what I need. “Listening to my body” can be used as a cop-out, as one of my teachers has explained, and I agree that it can indeed. But I would continue on to say that if one sincerely practices the discipline of listening to one’s body, in the context of a firm grounding in yoga practices and philosophy, one can truly take their yoga to a deeper level. Instead of relying on someone else to tell me, to give me, what is good for me, I myself must do the honest work of finding out what is truly good for me and I myself must create a way of bringing that into my life.

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Sorry to the guy I kicked in class today.

Bet you didn’t know it was full-contact Ashtanga day. Thanks for being so gracious about the sudden contact my foot made with your hand. There are lots of blogging Ashtangis in Seattle–maybe you’ll actually even see this. Nice.

I don’t know if I’ll ever feel not-awkward in yoga class. I have my graceful moments, but somehow they feel like the exception rather than the rule.

Um, in other news, D has been giving me some really good pointers on dropbacks, and I’m actually starting to feel better about them. But why does he always decide to help me with dropbacks when I’m already in Karna Pidasana? Not complaining though, really. Late is better than never.

And apparently I’m going to attend the August teacher training on a part-time work-trade basis, fitting it around my work schedule. Wow. I’m going to be busy. Plus, they’re basically going to own me at AYS with the work-trade hours I’ll owe them! I wasn’t even planning on doing this training until D brought it up–what have I gotten myself into? But of course I want to do it–it’s a great opportunity to build up my yoga practice and teaching ability, and it’s actually going to fit my schedule and my budget. Or maybe they’re just trying to own me.

Really, I’m joking about that in this case, but once long ago, a certain Bikram teacher thought he could have me under his thumb as a yoga teacher by hooking me up with free classes etc. etc. It didn’t really work for him, but it was a leeeeetle creepy. Or maybe my cynical side is getting the best of me. Who knows? And who cares? I am a free agent.