Yoga

As my training winds up, there’s all manner of thoughts running through my mind, and I think this blog is going to be a clearing house for them over the next few weeks. I’m going to start with my translations/commentaries on the first three yoga sutras of Patanjali (I’ll list these in the format Sanskrit… English translation… Squirrel translation).

Atha yoganusasanam

Now the exposition of yoga is being made.

When is the best time to practice yoga? Right fucking now!

Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah

The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga.

Yoga is when your mind shuts up.

Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam

Then the Seer abides in His own nature.

Then you can stop frontin’, and start dealing with what’s real.

I somehow doubt my own vulgar and dumbed-down translations are going to catch on, but they’re helpful for me.

I did my third and final assistant teaching last night, for a Basics class. I ploughed through it, but I was definitely not on my A-game. I kept stumbling over words and directions. It sucks that I ended my assistant teachings on a down note. My second assisting (which I did on Sunday) had gone much better; I think the difference may have been that Sunday’s class was first thing in the morning, so I was fresh and vibrant, and yesterday’s was in the evening after I’d spent all day staring at a computer screen writing code, and my head was still stuck in zeroes-and-ones mode. I’m concerned about what this may mean for my future as a teacher. Does this mean I’ll only be able to teach competently on days on which I wasn’t thoroughly immersed in computer code? I hope not. I never planned to give up my programming career in order to teach yoga; I want to be able to strike a balance between these two disparate worlds in which I live. I don’t want to have to choose.

My mind is very much drawn to contemplations of effort and surrender today, so here’s another excerpt from one of my recent yoga essays:

Effort and surrender. “Ay, there’s the rub,” to borrow a phrase from Hamlet. We do our practice, whatever that means for each of us; we are compelled to interact honestly with the world and treat each other as well as we can, but we don’t control the outcomes of our actions. Effort is trying to do whatever is right in the moment; surrender is hoping like hell that our actions are beneficial to others (and to ourselves), and realizing that the effects of our actions are beyond our ability to control. Sometimes, everything turns out the way we think it should. Sometimes, well, not so much. Effort and surrender is intense practice, so a lot of the time we try to avoid it. Donna Farhi enumerates some common avoidance techniques: neurosis (throwing our hands up and saying, “I can’t control anything; it’s all someone else’s fault; I give up.”), half hearted effort (self-explanatory), conditional perfectionism (diligent effort coupled with a refusal to accept any outcome but the one we desire), and impossible perfectionism (in which we keep moving the goal state so that it can never be achieved, because achieving some desired outcome would require relinquishing control). Diligent, honest effort followed by genuine surrender opens the doors to possibilities that just can’t present themselves otherwise.

Not that I’m any sort of an expert on surrendering control. I understand it in theory well enough, but theory isn’t worth a damn when the rubber hits the pavement.

On an up note, here’s another snippet from an earlier essay:

Farhi writes a lot about the importance of slowing down, and how frantic the pace of modern life can be. This reminds me, of all things, of the introductions to several cookbooks that I own. It seems that every time I page through a cookbook, the author’s first priority is to bemoan the rapid pace of modern life and lament the fact that no one makes time to cook anymore, despite what a calming, soothing, centring thing it can be to make a daily routine of preparing a meal. The same, of course, can be said of yoga. (When you start looking for it, you discover that there’s dharma everywhere, even between the recipes for shish kabobs and pork tenderloin.)
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