Beyond the Pairs of Opposites

In the Yoga Sutra II:47, Patanjali writes that when the effort to perform a posture becomes effortless, then the infinite being within can be reached. The next sutra says that the practitioner will then be beyond dualities, and no longer troubled by the pairs of opposites. Can we even imagine what it would be like to be completely untroubled by the ups and downs of life? Especially at this tumultuous time, what would it be like to be unaffected by success and failure, pain and pleasure, gain and loss?

This idea may so far from our everyday experience that it seems like a philosophical abstraction. How can we bring Patanjali’s wisdom down to earth? One way is to work with our asana practice and look at the poses we like and dislike. Some in depth practice with an open mind could reveal that our preferences are not as solid as we might think.

Consider a pose that you like and ask yourself, why do I like it? It is because the pose comes easily for you? Is there some particular aspect of the pose that feels good to your body, or some way in which the pose soothes your mind?

Start looking at the pose from a fresh perspective. Is there something about the pose that does not go so well for you? Perhaps that part of the pose has been hidden, as the mind lingers on the aspects of the pose that you find pleasurable.

This is not looking for problems, but opening the mind to look at the whole picture of the asana in a new way.  One way to find out where your attention may be needed in the pose is to use a timer.  Time the pose and find out how long you can hold it comfortably. Then gradually challenge yourself to longer timings. The weak links of the pose will reveal themselves as you extend the timing, and give you new avenues for exploration.

Now examine a pose that you don’t like, and ask yourself, why don’t I like it? Why is it hard for me? Do I really dislike the whole thing, or there some part of the pose that could engage my curiosity?

Then deconstruct the pose in some way. Do just the arms, just the legs, or just the trunk. Be creative and playful with props and support. Instead of going for long holding, try the “touch and go” method of moving in and out of the pose smoothy and rhythmically, allowing the body to gradually learn the new movement pattern the pose presents. Search for some previously unnoticed part of the pose that you can get interested in.

Once our poses are not in such defined categories of “like” and “dislike” we can approach them all with an attitude of interest, intelligence, and the wish to keep learning.

The current health crisis means that we can’t always do things according to our preferences. I might like going to the movies, seeing live theater and going to parties, but I have to let go of  those “likes” right now, and try other things. We would all like to be able to have live classes in the studio, but for now, the available option is online classes.

When this crisis began, I could not imagine that we would still be closed in late July, but that is the reality. If you can, please help sustain Green Tara Yoga through your Donation or by attending Online Classes.

As you practice the art of yoga, may you experience the unity of mind and spirit that is beyond all preferences.

Namaste,
Karen

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