Hot Buddha – Cold Buddha – Yoga

Hot Buddha, Cold Buddha

No matter how hard it may be to drag yourself to yoga class at the end of a busy day, inevitably you feel better when it’s over, walking fluidly out the door with your sticky mat rolled neatly under your arm. At that moment it may seem inconceivable that you would ever resist practicing again. But somehow even the very morning after a great class, resistance to practice can arise. You may experience a mental struggle as you lie in bed, trying to decide if and when to get out of bed and onto your mat for that first Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

This experience of resistance is not just a modern phenomenon plaguing our overly congested culture. Throughout the history of yoga, students have struggled with exactly what it means to practice, what discipline is, and how to overcome recurrent resistance to practicing.

By Judith Hanson Lasater

Hot Buddha Cold Buddha

No matter how hard it may be to drag yourself to yoga class at the end of a busy day, inevitably you feel better when it’s over, walking fluidly out the door with your sticky mat rolled neatly under your arm. At that moment it may seem inconceivable that you would ever resist practicing again. But somehow even the very morning after a great class, resistance to practice can arise. You may experience a mental struggle as you lie in bed, trying to decide if and when to get out of bed and onto your mat for that first Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

This experience of resistance is not just a modern phenomenon plaguing our overly congested culture. Throughout the history of yoga, students have struggled with exactly what it means to practice, what discipline is, and how to overcome recurrent resistance to practicing.

Very early in his classic Yoga Sutra, Patanjali provides a few verses that speak directly to these questions. After defining yoga as “control over the fluctuations of the mind” (Chapter 1, verse 2) and describing the basic categories of these fluctuations, he says, “Control over the mind’s fluctuations comes from persevering practice and nonattachment” (1.14). These two guiding concepts�abhyasa (persevering practice) and vairagya (nonattachment)�are not just the key to overcoming your resistance; they are also the key to yoga. On the surface, abhyasa and vairagya would seem to be opposites: Practice requires the exercise of the will, while nonattachment seems more a matter of surrender. But in fact they are complementary parts of yoga, each requiring the other for its full expression.

Cultivate Compassion
Abhyasa is usually translated as “practice,” but some have translated it as “determined effort,” or what I am choosing to call “discipline.” Unfortunately, there are few words as off-putting to most of us as “discipline.” It brings back memories of being told to sit on that piano stool for 30 minutes and practice no matter what. Or in our minds we may have connected discipline with punishment. But the kind of disciplined effort Patanjali means by abhyasa is very different from the sense of force and even violence people associate with the word “discipline.”

To me, discipline is not something that I force upon myself. It is something that I cultivate and which arises in me as a result of two things: my clarity of intention and my commitment.

To have clarity of intention requires that I take the time to examine and understand what my yoga practice is all about. Is it about stretching my hamstrings or about transforming my life? Do I use my practice to have a healthier and more attractive body, or to develop the awareness necessary so that my thoughts no longer run my life? Maybe I want both. After all, having a healthy body is not an unworthy goal. But in any case, it’s important that we become as clear as possible, to the point of being able to write down what we want from our yoga practice. Over time, of course, this can change. When I started doing yoga, I thought I wasn’t interested in “all that spiritual stuff.” I thought I was doing yoga only to help cure my arthritis. But from my first class I felt deeply drawn to the whole of the teachings of yoga.

 

Free Outdoor Yoga Classes

It’s a winning trifecta: Yoga. Nature. Free. 

This summer, it seems like everyone wants to be with the trees, wind and sky while they practice. There’s nothing like balancing in Tree Pose, humbled and inspired by the real thing all around you. And even better, many outdoor yoga classes are free, many as an offering to the community.

Across the country, yogis are busting out of the studio and onto the fields, parks, and lawns. Here’s just a few examples:

New York: Taking Central Park by Storm
Storm Yoga, a nonprofit that runs free classes in Central Park, wants to make yoga accessible to all: The classes are free, but yogis are encouraged to make a donation to a local charity that  runs yoga programs for under served communities.

San Francisco: Yoga on the Farm
Five days a week, San Francisco’s Hayes Valley Farm offers free yoga, weather permitting. Just show up with your mat at this urban farm.

hayes_valley_farm.jpg
Los Angeles: Canyon Asanas
All yogis are welcome at Fire Groove’s weekly, free yoga classes at Runyon Canyon. The evening starts with an all-level donation-based class and ends with a DJ spinning tunes for a Spin Jam.

Austin: Full Moon Yoga
For the 14th consecutive year, Charles MacInerney offers a monthly free yoga class that includes a hatha practice, meditation, and socializing to the light of the full moon.

Posted by Nora Isaacs on July 20, 2011 11:39 AM | Permalink

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