One other crucial shift must happen in order to facilitate the transition into full immersion in the yoga tradition. You must make the transition from a fitness oriented approach to yoga into a devotional one. By getting this subtle shift you will gain consistency and regularity in the way that you do your practice. A daily spiritual ritual where you take time to connect internally to a deep sense of yourself requires dedication. The requirement to practice six days a week is meant to develop the kind of mental, spiritual and devotional determination needed in order make progress along the internal path of yoga. If yoga is meant to be a life long commitment to inner peace it behooves yoga practitioners to practice as much as they can. If you only practice when it is convenient or when you feel good then yoga is more of a hobby then a lifestyle. But sincere spiritual practice has never been a leisurely activity if it is to produce the results of awakening. True spiritual practice is an unbroken commitment to do everything it takes to see the deepest truth there is. It is not something you can choose to look at only on Monday and Wednesday for an hour and pretend it does not exist for the rest of the week.
Kino Macgregor talks more about the logic of a 6-day practice in the ashtanga method here.
I recently resumed my own ashtanga practice in earnest. In earnest, she says… I can probably say this for the numerous other occasions over the last 11 years, when I had every intention of returning to the mat on a committed regular basis, but somehow those attempts never stuck. With my recent renewed commitment however, I’ve come to realise a few things – a few things which were most likely a huge part of the reason why my previous attempts at a daily practice never stuck:
I have a false belief that I am not strong enough.
I have a false belief that I am lazy.
Ironically it is only from my daily practice of slogging it out on the mat and pulling myself out of bed at 5am of recent weeks that I have come to realise this. I can now see why I used to have these lengthy on -off relationships with ashtanga. It was definitely a hobby then; I practiced it when it suited me and when I did, I focused on the aspects that I excelled at (flexibility) and took shortcuts or glossed over those that I wasn’t naturally great at (strength). In the twenty-something year old impatient version of me, I would be impatient and frustrated with the slow progress of my practice, taking short breaks when I felt bored and returning when I felt that something was amiss.
I’m thirty now. I’m probably still impatient, but I’d like to think less so than I used to be. Maybe turning thirty comes with a little more maturity. Hah, okay, maybe it’s my daily meditation practice. Maybe too it’s having learnt all about samskaras and tapas and being able to recognise and understand then in the context of my own spiritual practice.
Whatever it is, the realisation of these false beliefs within myself hit me with sudden speed and clarity on the mat last week. The physical practice is still challenging, but knowing this I now bring an intention to all of my practice including the parts that are confronting or tough. Core work and arm strength is really fun said no one ever, but it is satisfying to put myself to the test! The mental practice is a little easier, now that I know that I am as strong and as committed as I choose to be. The old snooze button doesn’t win these days and my little cat is delighted to be fed breakfast at dawn.
I get it now, even if my 5am starts are a total mystery to the unconverted. I can feel my samskaras burning away as I get on my mat every morning. I see the small but steady progress in my physical strength. I no longer believe I’m lazy. I’m happy.
Sunday shala shoes, Yoga Moves, Sydney
Image: © 2013 by Charmaine Pang. All rights reserved