I’m always surprised that my shower isn’t very clean—it gets ‘washed’ every time I shower, but is somehow still dusty. If I’m not diligent with the shower scrubbing (which I’m not) guess what? It stays dirty and dusty no matter how many times I take a shower.
Studying yoga is similar. It requires attentiveness and daily commitment. The Yoga Sutras say that studying you requires abhyasa, or ‘diligent practice.’ Abhyasa is required because there are a billion gajillion distractions vying for our attention. Identifying our happiness and worth as being inextricably tied to these distractions leads to confusion and frustration. However, as we’ve learned in previous posts, uncovering purusha (our inner Light of awareness) leads to a path of inner contentment and happiness. The knowledge of our inner Self requires turning our attention inward on a regular basis.
Abhyasa (diligent practice) sounds daunting. I mean, I have a lot going on. I’m planning events, preparing workshops, writing my first book, keeping my website up-to-date, managing a yoga studio, teaching upwards of 12 classes a week, learning how to be a wife, keeping Russell Clive healthy, buying potted herbs like they are going out of style and maintaining loving friendships.
Do I really have time to do my yoga practice every day? YES. YES. YES. (Remember this post about how to practice daily?) I absolutely have to make time, if I want to be serious about studying yoga.
There’s a story about Mahatma Gandhi that I love (and paraphrase frequently when students try to tell me they don’t have time to come to my yoga classes). The story goes that Gandhi said to his staff one morning, “Today is a very busy day. I won’t have time to meditate for one hour today.” His staff was shocked—apparently this peace-loving-world-changing-guru never missed his hour of morning meditation. Then he said, “Today is so busy, I must meditate for two hours.” He understood the power of diligent, focused practice.
Abhyasa is the desire to maintain a committed effort to know yourself at your deepest core and to use your yoga knowledge to heal your life, thought by thought, moment by moment. It is the recognition that no one else is going to clean your shower: you are the only person who can turn inward, examine your thoughts, and use discernment to choose which thoughts are helpful in your healing process. Abhyasa is knowing that it is important to stay on track, even when you experience physical and emotional set-backs and you want to throw in the towel on this whole ‘finding meaning and enlightenment thing’ and just go sit in a hot tub.
When I think about abhyasa, I remember that consistent, focused practice will deepen the connection to my Divine Inner Self. It may happen slowly, like little drops of water filling up a bucket, but eventually I’ve got enough water collected for a foot soak (yay!). Over time, my body, mind, and heart will be clear and healed. This cleansing process benefits myself and everyone who knows me. This inevitable truth makes it a lot easier to get up at 4:45 am and get myself on my meditation mat every morning. Abhyasa is worth it.
If you already have a regular practice, make it more regular. If you don’t already have a regular practice, carve out some time in your day. Even if it is only 5 minutes, that’s a great place to start. During this time, turn inward. Sit quietly. Allow the breath to wash away any residue of fatigue, tension, stress or distraction. Make this cleansing process a priority, I can’t think of anything more important than becoming happier and healthier.
If you need a good place to start, try listening to one of my Guided Meditations, like this one: