Dissolve, Distill and Thrive

In yoga we dissolve away what hinders us from thriving. In asana, we let go of tightness, tension, weakness. We build flexibility, freedom and strength. I came to yoga with curiosity for the practice and for a way to deal with injury and anxiety. I took classes here and there, but the type of yoga I had found didn't help with my injury, so I stopped practicing. Eventually I wound my way back, with that curiosity leading me. When I think back on what I was curious about, it was an interest in letting go and finding freedom, led by yoga's dismissal of the 'no pain, no gain' mindset. I wanted to dissolve away my tension and misunderstanding, my anxiety and cloaking. I wasn't conscious of it at the time, but deep down I had the desire to distill into who I am.

How do we dissolve away what hinders us? When you first begin practicing, it's unclear what's happening. You may be looking for increased flexibility or strength or a drop in anxiety. You experience a little bit of what you were looking for. Then more obstacles show themselves. You study these obstacles, see from which angle to whittle away at them, try new movements or stretches. A little more chiseling. Then new obstacles appear. This process continues as you become more aware of your body and your mind. It's when those obstacles seem impossible or when you're tired of climbing the mountain that you sometimes want to stop, to be okay with the progress you've made and take a break or leave yoga all together. It's at these times that you must redouble your efforts and stay in your practice.

Abhyasa is devotion to practice. This word shows up in the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali states that, through devoted practice, we still the fluctuations of the mind. If you let go of your practice, you're no longer moving in the direction of stilling. This is not meant to shame you. It's meant to define what it takes to reach a stilling of the mind. When you're injured or otherwise unable to practice asana, you can still practice yoga. You do what you can when you can and you stay in the yoga mindset. You get back to asana when you're able. Basically, you stay devoted to your practice. You continue to study yourself. You continue in the direction of stilling.

Life gets in the way of a yoga practice at times. It's not that your practice needs to be a straight line from chatter to stillness. It's unlikely that it will be, unless you denounce householder life and become nothing but a yogi. I don't know anyone in this boat. In my experience, the waves of life rise and fall. You have no choice but to ride them. The trick is to always hold your practice close to your heart. Always find your way back. It may feel like you're climbing a mountain, but to me it seems you're descending one, letting go of extra weight as you hike downward. You distill to the necessary alone, to your thriving unique and single soul.