Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sutra 1.22

sutra 1.22

The time necessary for success (also) depends on whether the practice is mild, moderate, or intense.

mridu madyha adhimatratvat tatah api visesah

I used to think that if something wasn't intense, I mean REALLY intense, it wasn't real. Anything less than burning hot fury was just a waste of time. If the hot sauce didn't make my eyeballs bleed it wasn't hot enough. If the music wasn't loud enough to make me partially deaf, it wasn't really music, and if the yoga wasn't balls-out hard enough, well, it just wasn't really yoga. I used to think that if I wasn't quaking with exhaustion and confusion and pain at the end of the asana practice, it was only evidence that I simply hadn't worked hard enough. You could easily qualify this as symptoms of over-active pitta (fire) — the Aryuvedic understanding biological humors, or dispositions. For better or worse, this attitude was reflected in my teaching approach. My motto should have been "I pity the fool!!"
I had no time for slackers or those who could not complete the required 78 chautaraungas in the Ashtanga Vinyasa Primary Sequence. If you couldn't do the pose, baby you were shit out of luck. I had very few options to offer. Not because I wouldn't, but because I didn't know any. And somehow I wasn't lacking for students! I suppose I attracted the kind of person who liked this sort of punishment. Often times, the meaner I was, the more students I had.

From adolescence and continuing into early adulthood, I was on a path that was burning through stuff hard. Some would qualify this approach to life as the slash and burn method, but I like to think of it as time spent doing tapas, the hard work of burning off what I didn't need. Tapas is also perceived as a great motivator for change. However, the hardcore physicality and mental stress of the kind of yoga I was practicing eventually caught up with me. Not only did I have  several "injuries" limiting what I could do, I was also a bit freaked out by what I could not  make my body do no matter how hard I tried, so I was always working at a deficit. If you have ever struggled with even just a little self-loathing, you know that the voice of the inner critic needs to be shut down not encouraged. And somehow, the very thing that had saved my life (yoga), was becoming a forum for self hating criticism and failure (yoga).

As I reflect, I look at this whole process through the lens of yoga. I am grateful that the wisdom of my body superseded what I thought was growth, but was actually an addiction to accomplishment. When I could no longer perform in the same way, I had to stop and ask myself what I was really doing.
I had to adapt. I started by learning new variations of  postures. And in the process of learning how to do this, I discovered the methods of Krishnamacharya which spoke so deeply about the necessity of adapting the asana, the pranayama and even diet and chanting to the needs of the individual. I realized I had done a lot of burning. After I turned 30 it was time to build.

Patanjali, being a practical guy, is continuing to layout out the game plan for practitioners in sutra 1.23. If you practice irregularly and without a great deal of conviction, the results will take a lot longer to see and they will appear irregularly. If you practice moderately, but with conviction the results will come moderately and steadily over time, and finally if you practice with the zeal and toughness of someone who eats Sriracha hot sauce for breakfast lunch and dinner, you MAY get there faster. I am an example of someone who burned with a great deal of zeal, but found eventually that  intensity was  partially misplaced.  I thought by focusing on my own development, particularly through the aegis of asana practice, I would become more highly evolved. Yet I found out the effects of my practice didn't necessarily correspond in such a neat equation. I had to do more work on stuff like humor, compassion, and a greater understanding of my craft in order to cultivate deeper relationships.

What I really like about this sutra is the implication that even if you work with total commitment, if it's not appropriate to your temperment and situation in life, it may not be the most effecient path. Where is this path leading you may ask? I don't really know, but suppose I can offer that so far I have found that my relationships have improved over the years. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am encouraged.  I tend to take Desikachar's point of view by undestanding that the success of yoga can be determined by the quality of your relationship to yourself, to your people and to your awareness of the Divine. I no longer think reality is determined by pain, so I guess you could say I am walking a more moderate path. In days past the word "moderate" would have really burned me up, but now I'm proud that I am more mild. I might even be a little boring sometimes, but that's cool. I don't have to put out quite so many flaming bridges.

How would you qualify your tempermant?

How would you describe your yoga practice (all the parts, not just the asana). Irregular, moderate or zealous?

What do you think the goal of yoga is? 

How do you determine if you are progressing in yoga?