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“The Most Intense Part of Your Day” November 17, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

“Let us first teach little children to breathe, to vibrate, to feel, and to become one with the general harmony and movement of nature.  Let us first produce a beautiful human being, a dancing child. [Friedrich] Nietzsche has said that he cannot believe in a god that cannot dance.  He has also said, ‘Let that day be considered lost on which we have not danced.’ But he did not mean the execution of pirouettes.  He meant the exaltation of life in movement.”

– Isadora Duncan (b. 05/26/1877)

According to Indian mythology, Shiva created the world with a dance. Some say it was a dance with 108 steps or poses (others say there were over 8 million). Can you imagine? People have and it always seems quite intense.

Paul B, one of my first yoga teachers, said that our yoga practice should be the “most intense” part of our day. Some people hearing that or reading that might find that really appealing, “Ooo, I want that kind of practice!” Others may be immediately turned off – for the exact same reason others get turned on. But, the practices with Paul B might not be what either group expects. In fact, his classes were the reason I always wanted to go deeper.

Take at face value, surface value, the statement seems to indicate a need for a physically vigorous or strenuous practice. But, what if that’s not what you need? The physical practice of yoga (haţha yoga, regardless of the style or tradition) was originally taught as an individual practice. Yes, it’s true that people might have practiced in a group. However, each person practiced in a way that was appropriate for their body with the awareness that the physical practice was preparing the body for deep seated meditation.

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam

– “Cultivate a steady [or stable], easy [comfortable or joyful] seat [or pose].”

Yoga Sūtra 2.47: prayatnaśaithilyānantasamāpattibhyām

– “[The way to perfect the seat or pose] is by relaxing [or loosening] effort and by merging with the infinite.”

Yoga Sūtra 2.48: tato dvandvānabhighātāh

– “From that (perfected posture) comes lack of injury (or suffering) caused by the pairs of opposites.”

Patanjali’s instructions for the third limb of the Yoga Philosophy, āsana (“seat” or pose), in some ways relies on the foundation of the first two limbs, the ethical limbs of yama (external “restraints” or universal commandments) and niyama (internal “observations”) – which require, nay demand, that we turn inward. To truly practice āsana there has to be an awareness of what the body needs and what is appropriate for the body. There also needs to be breath, and the awareness of breath, which is practiced with prāņāyāma (the fourth limb). One could argue that if you are not truly aware of your life force, you are not extending it (the other aspect of the fourth limb) and, therefore, you are not actually practicing yoga.

Classic texts like the Haţha Yoga Pradīpikā (15th century) describe 84 “seats” – and they are, in fact, mostly sitting on your sits bones poses – but not all the texts from the 10th through the 17th centuries list the same 84 (although, there is some general consensus). Light On Yoga (Yoga Dipika) was first published in 1966 and lists over 200 variations. Others will tell you there are thousands, millions even – especially when you consider different variations of a similar pose to actually be different poses. So, perhaps there are 84, perhaps there are 2 or 200, perhaps there are over 8 million, or several billion. Who can know? Ultimately, it’s not what you practice; it’s how you practice.

Over the years, Paul B’s words have echoed in my brain; but I don’t take them at face value. I recognize that sometimes I need an intensely physical (and vigorous) practice and sometimes I need an intensely relaxing practice. Sometimes I need something that is mentally intense – not so much in that I’m constantly thinking, but in that it engages my mind – and sometimes I need something intensely energetic and/or spiritual. Sometimes I need all of the above. My guess is that if you practice regularly you will discover the same truth: your yoga practice must be the most intense part of your day.

“Stability and comfort go hand in hand, allowing us to remain relaxed during the peak moments of the posture.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.47 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Please join me today (Tuesday, November 17th) at 12 Noon or 7:15 PM for a virtual yoga practice on Zoom, where we will do what we do. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “10202020 Pratyahara”]

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

“We are living in a body imbued with vast potential, and yet our mental faculty is so dull and dense that we are only dimly aware of its internal dynamics.

We have become disconnected from our body’s intrinsic intelligence. This dims our recognition of our inherent beauty, charm, vigor and vitality, and healing power, and eventually blocks their flow completely. As a result, our ability to be happy with what we are and what we have, our ability to embrace all and exclude none, our ability to cultivate and retain a robust and energetic body, and our ability to heal ourselves and each other plummet. This disconnection also disrupts the incessant flow of information among the body’s various systems and organs, and so they begin to function chaotically. This is how we become unhealthy and succumb to disease.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.46 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD



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