Yoga is not entertainment. Yoga is not about pleasure.
Yes, sometimes it’s fun to practice asana, but the point of yoga as a discipline is not for fun.
Yoga is a daily devotional practice. Yoga requires discipline, focus and perseverance. Devotional practice means that you get on your mat on good days and bad days and you do it for something beyond just your own self-centered desires for fun, pleasure or material gain. Practice builds tapas.
Tapas – heat, friction, intensity. This is not an external heater, but rather that intense vibrant fire which you build deep within the pelvis through your bandhas, breath control, awareness and asana.
Tapas burns through samskaras, those pesky ingrained attachment patterns of likes and dislikes. Thus if you only practice yoga in a way that makes you “feel good” or to have fun, all you are really doing is creating more samskaras, more strong attachments to pleasure. This is really counterproductive for yoga practice in the long run.
Yoga is not ice cream. Ice cream is delicious and sweet. Ice cream is pleasurable. Ice cream makes you happy (unless of course you are lactose intolerant…). Ice cream is a treat.
Yoga is not always delicious and sweet and pleasurable. Yoga is not a treat (there are mornings when obviously you would rather lay in bed than get on your mat, right?). While you can engage in yoga practice everyday, you can’t (and shouldn’t) eat ice cream every day – it would make you sick.
If you keep looking for your yoga to be like ice cream, to be something only enjoyable and pleasurable, you will not practice everyday because inevitably some days you will just not be able to find pleasure in your practice and this will disappoint and discourage you – plain and simple. If you keep approaching yoga like it’s ice cream, you might end up with something physical, but it won’t be real yoga. It won’t burn through your karma and samskaras – it just won’t take you to the place where you can reside in your true nature (as in Yoga Sutra 1.3).
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to always jump around and make funny shapes with your body in order to build tapas. Incredible purification and transformation can occur from sitting still, engaging deeply with the bandhas and practicing conscious breath control techniques. Every day explore mul bandha! Engage every muscle and anatomical structure between the two sitting bones and between the pubic bone and coccyx and believe you me, you will feel the heat rising up your central axis!
Cultivating that internal fire by powerfully grounding into the bandhas will take your practice physically and energetically to the next level. Dedicate your practice to that which is beyond your little self. Re-dedicate every day. Practice with dedication, extreme focus and with unwavering commitment to building and tending your fire.
Don’t run away from the fire when it starts to burn you….just let it burn…yes, pain is coming….but then, healing is coming.
~ All of this is a reflection from Kino MacGregor’s workshop last Saturday afternoon. I wrote down lots of notes and have subsequently lost them all…oh well! So what you read above is what stuck with me – I hope it does justice to her eloquent and powerful teachings. Much respect to Kino – she is one strong lady inside and out.