In my blog titled “Why Mysore? And Why Do I Love It?” I attempted to capture what it is about the practice that keeps me fired up – what motivates me to want to do it every day. Shortly after I posted it, as I was struggling to get myself through half Primary one morning, these four words popped into my head: work, devotion, discipline and grit. Each represents an aspect of practice that can bring up strong reactions within each of us in differing ways. So, I decided to write about what they mean to me.
Work. You know, a comment that I often hear from folks when they find out I teach yoga is “oh, you must be so relaxed!”. Uh, yeah, cause I work my ass off every day in practice and teaching and collapse by the end of the day – is that what you mean?! For some people, maybe that is how they practice yoga, in some laid back “relaxing” way, but for Ashtangis (and many others) it’s WORK! Getting ourselves to the mat, putting in the right level of effort to strike a balance of sthira and sukham while actually engaging in the postures with breath and awareness takes effort. Sure, over time that effort evolves and maybe requires a bit less sweat equity. But, you know what? I love the sweat equity. I love the work. It’s work in the best sense of the word. So, I guess it’s lucky for me I’ve got plenty of material left to work with.
Devotion. From day 1 (circa 2001) I’ve been doing this yoga thing because I want to be the best human I can be. Back then I was a muscle boy living in NYC working out daily and enjoying my party life. I came to yoga because it felt like something was missing and it wasn’t something physical. Thanks to Jivamukti that something was made tangible within the first visit. A fire was ignited within me that continues to burn to this day. I care deeply about wellbeing of others and yoga has helped me transform into someone who can at least attempt to put others wellbeing first. So, I come off the mat each day more and more devoted to the teachings, the practice and the greater community – all beings.
Discipline. Keeping it up can be hard at times, but on the whole I find it relatively easy. Establishing a commitment, understanding where that commitment is coming from, and reminding myself of the benefits has created a knowing that discipline pays off. It pays off because it doesn’t leave much room for doubt. I know what I’m going to be doing with myself each morning to maintain and nurture my spirit and that alone keeps me motivated.
Grit. When I hear this word it brings to mind the old New York and still to some extent today’s Chicago and Philadelphia. Hard working towns with history and texture. That’s how I feel when I think of we Ashtangi’s sticking to our commitment to practice. Down in the sweat and grime, cranking it out day to day. I guess for some that might sound horrible, but I like it. I like that it conjures up an image of determination because there are so many obstacles that come up when one tries to adhere to a discipline. Internal and external distractions, some of which hold legitimate rationale for skipping practice and can lead us right down the rabbit hole toward giving up. Yoga Sutra 2.16 lists nine such obstacles that are specific to the yogi and “natural” – shared by amongst us all. Physical illness (vyadhi), tendency of the mind to not work efficiently (styana), doubt or indecision (samshaya), lack of attention to pursuing the means of samadhi (pramada), laziness in mind and body (alasya), failure to regulate the desire for worldly objects (avirati), incorrect assumptions or thinking (bhranti-darshana), failing to attain stages of the practice (alabdha bhumikatva), and instability in maintaining a level of practice once attained (anavasthitatva). All can be overcome through a combination of work, devotion, discipline and grit – that level of stick-to-it-tive-ness that is often found lacking in today’s entertain-me consumer driven, quick fix, feel good world. We strip it down to just ourselves and the earth, and PRACTICE! Ekam inhale….
**Side note, big thanks to those that comment, like and let me know they enjoy my blog. It means a lot to me to receive your feedback (positive and negative!). But, I do want to share with you that I don’t really have any grand plan or underlying motive for putting these writings out here. I just really enjoy writing and the challenge of trying to take my internal practice and turn it into some sort of outward sharing. It comes from the heart. I’m even trying to work up the courage to write a book! I’ve been thinking about writing a book inspired by the opening prayer of Ashtanga Yoga for quite some time. So, I may start there and sharing that with you will hopefully help nudge me to get to work! 😉