Sutra 1.12 Practice and Non-attachment

I wanted to share a couple of exciting new things coming up before diving into a Sutra:

1. Rainier Beach Yoga will be starting its own newsletter. Sign up here to stay up to date on all things Rainier Beach Yoga, including getting a buy one get one free class!

2. Our first classes will be Tuesday, May 12 and ALL classes that week will be FREE! Make sure to sign up early to save your spot as we are limiting classes to 10 students only.

3. I am excited to bring on 2 work/study positions! One is for an assistant to me and the other is for a cleaner/general tidier of Rainier Beach Yoga. Look at the bottom of this email for more details.

Now, the beloved Sutras. In January I started writing one essay/month on one of the Sutras. So far we have learned about the auspicious beginnings of yoga, what yoga is and what happens when we do yoga. After Patanjali entices us with the outcome of the practice (residing in our true nature) he spends the majority of the text teaching us how to do that.

Sutra 1.12: abhyasavairagyabhyam tannirodhah. “That can be controlled through practice and non-attachment,” Pandit Rajmani Tigunait translates.

“That” is the tendencies of the mind, the ways the mind is pulled this way and that, the way the mind can run the show (many times without us even knowing it!). I always think it is important to give a shout out to the mind here. A lot of traditions give the mind a bad rap, and we have to remember all the amazing things the mind does for us. Through yoga we are not attempting to get rid of or punish the mind. We are trying to train the mind, in the way we might train a puppy or a child. Without discipline our minds can feel out of control, and yoga can be one way to help give the mind some guidance and structure.

Sutra 1.2 states that Yoga is the mastery over the roaming tendencies of the mind. Now Patanjali gives us some insight into how to achieve this: practice and non-attachment.

Abhyasa is practice: the effort we put in. The part of us that wakes up early to meditate, that pauses before we say hurtful words, that helps us stop before doing something that will take us away from our essential nature and helps us move towards something that will connect us to our true nature (learn more about true nature here).

We recently had a wonderful dedication celebration at Rainier Beach Yoga. Our practice to get the space ready included determining how many people were coming and how to prepare the space with the most ease and peace for everyone involved. My practice involved getting help, procuring a tent in case of rain, finding tables for the food. Party planning.

At some point we had over 80 RSVPs, and panic started to arise. We did not have room for 80 people in our little studio. What do we do if there was a thunderstorm (which the weather person said there may be)? What if we did not have enough raffle items? What if I forgot something? What if…? What if…? What if…?

When we overdo abhyasa (practice) it can lead to anxiety, panic and fear. There is a sweet balance of practice and non-attachment.

Non-attachment (vairagya) is just as necessary as practice. Non-attachment helps us be kind to ourselves when we do not make it to our practice, helps us let go of what is not serving us, lets us put our best effort in without being anxious about the results of that effort.

Non-attachment can also be overdone, which can lead to apathy, depression or lethargy. It can come with a sense of nothing matters or why bother.

When I noticed I was getting anxious about the celebration I was able to observe that emotion. I do believe that by being mindful of what is happening in the mind and body we are both practicing and non-attaching in that moment. The practice of watching something move through us without trying to make it go faster or make it go away is a huge practice in non-attachment. I also think that non-attachment comes with a sense of faith.

After the celebration was over and done (which was wonderful, fit most everyone and there were no thunderstorms) I said to my friend, “why do I forget to trust?” I seem to need to learn this lesson over and over. Maybe we all do.

I did all the party planning I could to make the event go as smoothly as possible. If in that moment I could trust I had done all that I could I would have found the balance of practice and non-attachment. Yet sometimes we learn our lessons after the fact, and I have learned this lesson before. I am sure I will learn it again too.

So how do we put these two together in balance? Pandit Rajmani Tigunait offers pairing the breath with the mind. It is a practice of focusing the mind, and it is also an opportunity to lesson attachment to other places the mind wants to go. I am letting go of thinking about the “what if…?” stories in order to think of the breath.

I also appreciate mindfulness moments of pausing. I was at lunch with my friends and family and I told them I was feeling anxious. I got up, went to the restroom and took a few moments to simply be. We can do this anywhere. Try it out now. What do you notice about the mind? The breath? The body? Take about 5-10 breaths to just be with this experience without trying to push anything away or pull anything closer. See what you notice. And when practice or non-attachment feel out of balance do this again and see what you discover. Let me know!

I look forward to seeing you on or off the mat.