Abhyasa and Vairagya/ Practice and Detachment

This morning I went to Sue’s class at NeYoga.  I usually do 2nd series on Sundays, or I have been for about a month, but today I needed the group aesthetic and the heated room to clear away the vestiges of a bug that went around our family.  Meanwhile I’ve been reading this month’s Yoga Journal, and Kate Holcombe wrote and article about verse 1:12 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras:”

Abhyasavairagyabhyam tannirodha

In order to achieve a state of yoga, one must develop both practice and detachment.

So here’s the thing, I’ve been getting better and better at the practice part.  In fact, I can make myself practice until I cause injury so I’ve had to learn a little restraint.  But detachment to the results?  Detaching myself from the old ways of being that detract from my goals to move forward?  Not so much progress there lately.  Here’s what Kate writes:

“In other words, practice alone is never enough to get you on your goal; you must also cultivate the discipline of letting go, of the habits or impediments that are standing in your way.”  She goes on:  “If you want to develop a regular asana practice, for example, you have to make the effort and the time to actually do it (abhyasa), which may mean giving up an extra hour of sleep in the morning or late nights drinking wine or watching Giants replays (vairagyam).  If your goal is to spend quality time with your partner in the evenings after work, you have to make the effeort to be present and perhaps give up playing games on your iPhone or checking your email.”

Ah yes, giving up things.  I am not so good at that.  In an earlier post on my old blog I whined about time, and not having enough time for all the wonderful things there are to do and learn in this life.  And of course when you have 3 children there really isn’t quite enough time.  But later I realized that I’m like a kid in a candy store crying because she only has a dollar and can’t buy everything.  My lesson right now is to choose the candy I want the most, and leave the rest on the shelf.  This is very hard.  Whine.

But already I digress.  For the real issue here was abhyasa and vairagya, practice and detachment.  And it is not enough to set aside the 1-2 hours for daily ashtanga practice.  You have to give up things.  Like that beer you really want with dinner.  Or half your dinner, really.  And certainly the afternoon snack.  But that is not all (remember Dr. Suess- oh that is not all, no that is not all!).  There are things in your mind to give up.  You have to give up the idea that your are too fat or too old for this practice.  Or that your arms are too short or your torso too long for a jumpthrough.  I have to give up the idea that I can’t let go of my old habits about eating.  This is taking a little longer than I had planned.  I have been playing with Claudia’s ideas about loving yourself first, and going to the mirror and saying “I Love You,”  which is incredibly awkward and goofy and also incredibly powerful.  I have to give up the idea that my childhood habits of eating for comfort are permanently ingrained in my psyche.  So there are these samskaras, these grooves, these habitual patterns. I dreamt the other night that the new way is already before me, I just have to let go of my nostalgia for, my attachment to the old way of comforting myself with food whenever I feel anxious or upset.  I have to detach, I have to practice vairagyam.

So that is my goal for this week, abhyasa and vairagyam, practice and detachment.

Reporting in on last week’s effort to practice right speech:  some failures, some success.  But even in most of my failures were the seeds of improvement.  I told my children I loved them more.  Except for one diffcult night cleaning the living room, I refrained from tirades. I breathed a little more.  It was good and I will do this again.


3 thoughts on “Abhyasa and Vairagya/ Practice and Detachment

  1. When you were talking a few weeks ago about being upset about setbacks, I thought about detachment. It’s hard to find a balance because if you become to detached it’s easy to become lazy.

    1. Thank you Jennifer, my first comment! For some reason people had trouble leaving comments on the blogger site and that’s why I’ve switched to wordpress. The balance is tricky, How to be focused enough on practice without overdoing it. I’m still figuring that out. David Garrigues has this great post that touches on this and he writes:

      you have to be sure you are not sacrificing your body to your ego. That you are not going too far in order to compensate for unconscious feelings of unworthiness— you don’t need to use your asana practice to ‘prove’ you are good and worthy.

      It’s on his blog: http://davidgarrigues.com/blog/

      So I guess the learning curve is that we try too hard and go overboard, leading to injury or just frustration, or we don’t try hard enough and there is no progress. Finding the middle path is difficult.

  2. this is interesting. it makes sense that you have to let go of the old in order to make room for the new, right? but I can honestly say that is a part of change I have not actively attempted. I just thought if I tried hard enough with the new the old would fall away. But it doesn’t, it stays with you, and then eventually creeps back in…(remember me? You never said goodbye, so I came back….) Very interesting. Deb, I think we have a lot of parallel struggles. We need to have a girls night (damn, no beer, how about some kombucha?) and talk this all out. xoxo

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