I was chatting with a friend last week and she was recounting a story of an acquaintance of hers who had come to the realization that because her life was plugging along well enough, she never took a step back along the way to explore what she truly wanted out of her journey. It reminded me of the old adage “Good is the enemy of Great”. As our conversation continued we discussed the difficulty in reconciling that concept with another commonly held belief that we should be happy and grateful in our present moment. This conundrum, that is explained using the principles of Abhyasa and Vairagya, became my inspiration for my classes this week.
As we began to warm the body I shared these principles and how they work together. I asked my students to visualize a scale with two sides– on one sits Abyhasa-– the concept of consistent practice which allows us to be a better version of ourself today than we were yesterday– not settling for good when with practice we can find great. On the other side of the scale is Vairagya— non-attachment which in it’s simplest form is described as always letting go of that which is not of service to you or is pulling you off your path.
This “scale” is always shifting but the goal is to keep these two principles as evenly aligned as possible in the mind. To pair this complicated practice with our physical asana we put our intention into going deep into the muscle groups that insert into the pelvis. These muscles always represent the balancing act of these two principles in my body– working for more strength and flexibility, but at the same time letting go of what I might be holding onto that is not serving me in addition to that which is no longer available in my body.
We flowed through poses which strengthened and stretched the lower back as well as the IT band, TFL, gluts, hamstrings and then we worked to access the deeper muscles of the hips. As we settled into a long Pigeon pose in preparation for Lotus it was a good time to focus again on these two principles. People often hold not just physical tightness but emotional stress and discourse in their hips. I asked my students to deploy both sides of their scales. On one side Abhyasa requires a persistent effort to stay on our individual path and be more in touch with our truth each day through our thoughts, speech and actions. So, with the breath and focus I reminded them that they could go deeper into their hips today than yesterday. On the other side is Vairagya which is the practice of exploring and letting go of attachments, aversions, fears and false identities that are clouding our true self. Once we let go of what we are holding onto, we find lightness and our true path becomes more clear– both in our hips and in our hearts.
As we prepared for Savasana I explained in more detail how these two sides of the scale work together to help us find our truest journey. Never Giving Up which is always practicing (Abhyasa) leads us in the right direction while non-attachment or Always Letting Go (Vairagya) allows us to continue our inner journey without getting sidetracked with the pains and attachments along the way. This journey that we are on offers gifts each day and embracing them is part of how we find our inner happiness but we do not want to be sidetracked or settle for what is “good” when with practice we can find the “great”. Practice, practice and all will be there for us. Never Give up and Always Let Go. Namaste.