Practice, Practice, Practice

Tapah Svadhyayesvara Pranidhanani Kriya Yoga II:I

tapah= accepting the purifying aspects of painful experience; svadhyaya= self-study in the context of teachings; Isvara= Supreme Being; pranidhanani= surrendering, devotion, offering the fruits of one’s practice; kriya yoga= Yoga in practice.

In the second book/sadhana pada in the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali, we are inspired by the practice of Yoga. Patanjali is offering practical, yet profound- means of existing in the moment to moment. All of these teachings seem to be built upon the movement towards freeing ourselves from being enraptured with the fluctuations of the mind. I have found that this first thread of book two can be applied in the most practical of ways, and for me the significance is a real power house.

Tapas, the acceptance that purification can carry pain is theoretically digestible, but to apply it can take tremendous strength. We get to experience this purification in many ways, from the physical, to the subtle, inclusive of our emotional, mental and spiritual bodies. Tapas is a discipline of training in our senses, with the recognition that the nature of the mind is to run towards that which is pleasant and far from that which we perceive will be painful. When I come to my mat for an asana practice, the purifying aspect is most often quite pleasurable for me. To be in my body, and to feel into my bones and muscles is a celebration. I even appreciate the humbling days when my physical body speaks to me and asks me to be quieter, slower, to move with less vigor. However, it is the practice of applying this acceptance into the rest of my life that the practice really blossoms. Can I embrace that the lessons which might hurt, which may challenge me in every way are burnishing me into gold? Can I be moved by experience that training the senses instead of being controlled by them has power, has sweetness? This is a valuable question to ask ourselves. Do we consciously take our practice off the mat?

Svadhyaya, the pursuit of the interior landscape, is one I live by. While we may read the great spiritual teachings, or be so well-versed to speak of them, do we turn and look within? It takes tremendous warriorship to see clearly, or even begin the exploration to literally study the self. In this quest, we might find our abundance, our light, our beauty, and we must also be willing to embrace our shadows, our fears, and those places that are often the most uncomfortable. As thorough as we are in the investigation, the practice asks us to then, look again. For everything is changing, and always revealing another truth. Patanjali again, reiterates that this is a practice, which is inclusive of falling down, sometimes face down, and then finding the courage to pick ourselves up, and name the human-ness of our experiences. We have the exquisite opportunity to become vivid, to become most intimate with ourselves, and our experiences, inclusive of our actions, our speech (both within and without), and our intentions.

Isvara Pranidhanani, the ultimate letting go, is the softest most tender aspect of the teaching of kriya yoga. Surrendering is a practice. My husband’s grandmother used to always say to me, “We must let go and let God.” And this application has been like a lullaby many times over. And yet, for as many times as I have repeated this mantra, the practice of letting go of always knowing, of always being safe, of looking my fears in the face can be terrifying. With all of my dedications, I am practicing. With each repetition of heart and mind we are expanding our capacity to let go just a little bit more, ultimately opening our minds beyond the amazing limitations we have learned to impose upon ourselves.

Yoga in practice is a tremendous gift. It is an opportunity to wake up. When we infuse our experiences with a bit more vitality, and with reflection, then we might see the applications of our practice on our sacred journey from the miniscule to the marvelous, recognizing that the practice is not separate from the rest of our life. We sometimes forget what we are practicing for. I invite you to ASK YOURSELF!