It’s really been one of those weeks. You know, the kind where everything else in life gets put on hold so that one great big project that was supposed to be done two months ago finally gets finished. The kind of of week where every day starts early and ends late, with hardly any room in between to breathe. Somehow I survived, and fortunately relief came Friday morning when I finally turned in the paper that’s consumed most of my energy.
Needless to say, I also started this blog about a week ago, at just about the same time life went into overdrive. The blog has been a nice respite during the day as well as a helpful reminder that yoga “practice” includes more than just time on the mat (of which there was very little this week). Of course, the busyness of this last week made it all the more enjoyable to finally roll out my mat last night and spend some quality time touching my toes and standing on my head. Afterwards I decided to open up my copy of B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga for a few minutes of inspiration. It was a few minutes well spent, and what I read spoke directly to the obstacles pretty much everyone faces in one form or another on the path of yoga.
More specifically, at the beginning of Light on Yoga, Iyengar offers a checklist from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras of the distractions and obstacles (chitta viksepa) that tend to hinder dedicated yoga practice. While the list is relatively short, it is an excellent guide for review, especially when our practice seems to be suffering. The list is as follows:
- Vyadhi – sickness which disturbs the physical equilibrium
- Styana – languor or lack of mental disposition for work
- Samsaya – doubt or indecision
- Pramada – indifference or insensibility
- Alasya – laziness
- Avirati – sensuality, the rousing of desire when sensory objects possess the mind
- Bhranti Darsana – false or invalid knowledge, or illusion
- Alabdha Bhumikatva – failure to attain continuity of thought or concentration so that reality cannot be seen
- Anavasthitattva – instability in holding on to concentration which has been attained after long practice.
As I read the list I realized that within the last week I had suffered from pretty much all of the maladies at some time or other. Fortunately, Patanjali also offers what Iyengar prescribes as the fourfold remedy for overcoming these obstacles. They include:
- Maitri – friendliness
- Karuna – compassion
- Mudita – delight
- Upeksa – disregard
As for how these remedies relate to the practice of yoga, Iyengar writes:
The deeper significance of the fourfold remedy of maitri, karuna, mudita and upeksa cannot be felt by an unquiet mind. My experience has led me to conclude that for an ordinary man or woman in any community of the world, the way to achieve a quiet mind is to work with determination on two of the eight stages of Yoga mentioned by Patanjali, namely, asana and pranayama.
Thus, one of the great challenge of life is to maintain a “quiet mind.” With a quiet mind we have the ability to battle back against the pitfalls and obstacles that lull us away from the path of yoga. Hopefully, this next week can be more about cultivation of quiet mind.
When the mind is still, the beauty of the Self is seen reflected in it. The yogi stills his mind by constant study and by freeing himself from desires.