Pausing between back bends

Last month, I wrote about equanimity and I am continuing to pull this thread through my yoga practice and into my life. I have been weaving many thoughts and questions into the fabric of this ideal and sharing some of my thoughts and questions in my classes over the past month.

Here are some questions I have been asking myself:
What leads me to my own sense of composure? What pulls me away from it? What virtues or values do I want to focus on? What self-limiting concepts do I wish to let go of? And … where does the practice of yoga come into this contemplation?

In asking myself these questions, I acknowledge that I have lots of “stuff” that has been reinforced by personality and circumstance over many many years. The yogis call that stuff “Samskaras”. Samskaras are sometimes defined as impressions or habitual conditioning of the mind.

The practice of “Svadhiyaya”, or self study, is one of the disciplines of yoga according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Objectively observing my samskaras is an important practice that leads to knowing myself better.

I am not going to get rid of my stuff with just a few rounds of ujjayi breathing and a couple of downward dogs, but over time and with steady practice perhaps I can see myself more clearly and respond to my samskaras with equanimity.

So, each time I practice, I think about equanimity. Because I keep returning to this idea again and again, I feel like I am creating safety net of peacefulness in my practice. The more I maintain my practice and continue this contemplation, the stronger and more stable the threads of my safety net become. My practice then better supports me in a state of equanimity.

By regularly returning to my practice time and again, I can connect more easily and more deeply with my calm centre. What is necessary, though, is “Abhyasa”. This term is defined at steady practice over a long period of time. Steady practice is integral to the pursuit of equanimity. I need to keep practicing it regularly and often so that it becomes more and more familiar. That way, I know it when I see it! It becomes its own samskara or impression.

It’s kind of like listening to me play the harmonium. I have one. I know the basics of how to play it, but frankly, my playing doesn’t sound good. Why? I don’t spend the time needed on practice. When I do practice, I am reminded of just how difficult it is to play well. Playing well takes effort, practice and time.

This is also true of my desire to deepen my experience of equanimity. I am not going to find equanimity unless I apply effort, practice and give it time. While yoga isn’t the only path to equanimity, it is the best route I know. It helps me yoke my body, mind, heart and spirit to the present moment. It helps me move towards equanimity, one breath and one downward dog at a time.