Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Practice makes perfect

It is true, that which we practice we get better at. That being true, we need to be careful of what it is we are practising.

Yesterday I got my grumpy pants on.   I am so grateful that this was observed to me, because if I had gone on practising that, I would have achieved the perfect bad mood and soured things for myself and those around me. Today that got me thinking about practice in general, yoga practice in particular (there is no difference actually) and the Yoga Sutras and how we must be careful of what we practise in every area of our life.

In our physical practice of Asana it is important to remain vigilant to discover or uncover any misalignment for if we do not we are just continuing to practise and get better at something that is inherently unsound, perhaps even leading to injury. Sometimes we might have very ingrained movement patterns we are not even aware of. These might be creating imbalance in the body and pain might be the result. With the assistance of our teacher we can start to uncover these and to repattern our movement and eventually perfect something that has much healthier consequences.

It is similar for the non-physical areas of practice.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali has given us a manual for the practice of yoga. OK, so it is rather short on what we tend these days to think of as yoga, all those postures! But the postures are not really yoga, not in themselves. Right in the second sutra Sage Patanjali tells us what yoga is.
I.2. Yoga is the stilling of the movement of thought in the indivisible intelligence.
What he sets out in the sutras is a path to attain that state, and these days we can add our posture work to the path. Patanjali's path leads us to the practices of meditation - withdrawing from distractions, concentrating, mindfulness and absorption. This is the path of Raja Yoga, but he very compassionately gives us practices for everyday living to begin with that prepare our minds for what is to come.

So it is that at I.33. Patanjali provides a method of attitude towards our relationships with others.
II.33. Four attitudes to vicissitudes are conducive to peace of mind:
(1) Friendliness towards the joyful
(2) Compassion for the sorrowful
(3) Rejoicing in goodness
(4) Indifference to badness - not being drawn into it nor holding others in contempt for it
When we practice these we are changing our brains, shifting it away from suffering and into joy. And the more we practise, the better we get at them.

The reverse is also true. If we resent the joy we find, we become well-practised at being resentful; if we do not cultivate compassion a sour heart will taint our well-being; if we fail to rejoice in goodness and do not endeavour to surround ourselves with good people, and if we are caught up in badness, badness is what we will perfect.

Later, in Book Two, Patanjali give us more codes for living in the yamas and niyamas. But right here in Book One we have things we can do, attitudes to practice that are most definitely yoga.

Yesterday in my grumpy pants I stepped off the path for a moment.  I am so glad I quickly found my way back on again.

Keep practising, but make sure it is the right thing!

With love

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