Long Time Practicing Yoga



2019 July 6, Saturday Conference Notes


Yoga Sūtra 1:14

saḥ tu dīrgha-kāla - nairantarya - sat-kāra - ādara - āsevitaḥ dṛḍha-bhūmiḥ


The last phrase of this sūtra, “dṛḍha-bhūmiḥ,” means firmly established or having a solid foundation. The words leading upto this are the qualities needed, and Patañjali always creates lists beginning with the most fundamental and culminating with the most developed aspect. But before we explain the list of words, let’s look briefly at what is meant when we talk about beings established in yoga.


To be established in yoga means that the benefits of yoga are established in (or integrated into) our lives. We are healthier and understand better how to manage our energies & emotions. We are skillful at utilizing yogic tools whenever we see ourselves becoming imbalanced. We are flexible in out attitudes and willingly abandon our attachments & notions which interfere with moving in a positive direction. To accomplish this we secretly rely on simple internal practice to regain our mental balance. So what does Patañjali about how to gain this type of competency in yoga?


Dīrgha Kāla: First things first - right? The first thing - and most important thing - is we need to practice yoga for a long time. We can just practice for just a moment or two and expect any results. We need to practice for more than a few minutes, or even upto as much as 2-1/2 hours. Then, we get some benefits that last throughout the day - right? Well, we also need to stay with our practice for many many decades too! The way the changes of yoga affect us over the course of our life is very very profound. These benefits cannot be had any other way than by sheer perseverance over a very long time. So staying with our practice, coming back to yoga over & over, again & again - even if we take a break from it - this is the most important factor. Without this there is no yoga at all!


Nairantarya: The second most important factor is continuity. The ability to focus - breath after breath after breath - without interruption while practicing is extremely beneficial. This generates the the amount & the kind of energy needed to make changes. Every time we lose our attention to breathing, vinyāsa & dṛṣṭi, there is a loss of energy in our system. When we keep the lid on our attention then the energy, the heat builds internally, but if we keep taking the lid of allowing our attention to think about other things, then that pressure won’t build up as much.


Transformation always requires a significant amount of energy. Take water for example. It takes just 1 calorie to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree centigrade. But, to take 1 gram of water that is 100 degree centigrade and transform it into gas (steam), it requires a whopping 540 calories! That's 540 times as much energy as it took just to change the temperature by 1 degree. So continuity of focus sustained for an extended period of time is vital if we are pursuing a break through. Otherwise, we will just remain stuck at the same level.


Sat Kāra: If we have the first two, dīrgha-kāla & nairantarya, then the next one, sat-kāra, becomes useful. Satkāra means having faith in the proper method. When we have faith in the method, then we can apply ourselves to practicing with the reluctancies that may arise from doubts: Is this method really worthwhile, maybe there is a better method? These thoughts will prevent us from being able to understand how to use the method more effectively. Faith in the method doesn’t mean that we don’t inquire to understand the method more deeply. Rather it is the requisite that enables a useful inquiry into truly understanding the subtitles and secrets of the method. Faith in the practice, enables us to penetrate into the techniques and master them.


Ādara: So what next? We have continued sustained practice and our approach & technique are gaining insight & improving - so what does Patañjali say we need next? What we need is energy. Ādara means enthusiasm - so this really means having a positive attitude. If we are excited about practice, then automatically we have more energy, more attention as we approach our breath, bandhas, vinyāsas, āsanas, etc. Without this excitement, the practice (or anything we are doing) becomes a little bit heavy - right? But when we really want to do it - so much so that it reflects in our attitude - then the energy produced will be virtually undefeatable. Otherwise, any kind of little obstacle becomes a distraction and we take on the attitude of defeat (or heaviness) far to easily.


Āsevita: If we have made it this far, we are making phenomenal progress, but still Patañjali wants us to cultivate one more quality that will act as a quality control. Āsevita means service. You have probably heard of seva (service). Āsevita is more or less the same word. When we approach something as a service, we reduce the subtle & sneaky tendency of the mind (ego / asmitā) to undermine our clarity. The more we look to the needs of the body, the less we approach our practice with the aim to get something for ourselves - the less we try to squeeze happiness out of our practice. In this spirit, we greatly increase our capacity to see how things truly function, what they are actually capable of (in the present moment) and what they need to be nurtured & supported. For this, there is no greater vehicle than our breath. Each breath is different. Literally, no two breaths are identical, and the only way to work with this is through clear, present, direct perception. We must strive to feel the bio-rhythms of the body expressed in the breath on deeper & subtler levels, and, we must work towards this level of attention within each and every breath through each and every vinyāsa of our practice. This extremely intimate expression of service will reveal worlds of knowledge about our bodies, minds, emotions & personalities.


So these are the layers to cultivate that lead towards gaining lasting benefits from the practice and which naturally lead towards mastery of yoga. It is a bit like falling into a rabbit hole so to speak. It may take us into realms of self & life that we never intended (or could have ever imagined), but that is probably good. Because, when we surpass our original reasons for practicing yoga - when our accomplishments exceed our initial goals - then for sure we are successfully establishing ourselves in yoga.

Yoga Sūtra 1:14

saḥ tu dīrgha-kāla - nairantarya - sat-kāra - ādara - āsevitaḥ dṛḍha-bhūmiḥ


 

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