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YogaDork Ed: Navigating Abhyasa and Vairagya, Practice and Letting Go (of Desires, too)

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Continuing in the Sutra Series, senior Iyengar teacher Carrie Owerko tackles the tough concept of practicing, and then letting go.

And vairagya?

Practice and Renunciation – abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (renunciation)

by Carrie Owerko, Senior Iyengar Teacher

In the classes that I teach, I have found it effective to cultivate a classroom ethic by using the space as a little laboratory to observe our understanding of abhyasa and vairagya. The students learn to observe when and why they find themselves looking around, talking, or comparing themselves to others. “You be with You,” Geetaji [daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar] often states.

For awhile it may take tremendous effort for someone not to look around the room or talk to their neighbor, but at some point, after continuously practicing the maintenance of an alert, but inwardly directed focus and practicing this with the heartfelt intention to do what one can to calm and clarify those inner waters, the very desire to look around gradually weakens and falls away. But one must do this continuously because the klesha vrittis of ignorance, ego, desire, aversion, and clinging to life are present in all of us in various stages of manifestation at any given time. And our practice presents an opportunity to observe these disturbances and trace them to their source, gradually weakening them by seeing them for what they are: the powerful currents of the outgoing mind.

If we have the desire (raga) to acquire something, to possess it - some pose, some person, for instance – we then have to cling and hold on because we fear the loss (abhinivesa) of it or them, and so increase our inner turbulence and suffering. A spirit or counter-current of inquiry is helpful here.

Every asana or pranayama is like a little universe – as are our bodies, hearts and minds. We are explorers, inquiring into our nature, our nature within the asana, and ultimately our truest nature which has nothing to do with asana at all, or our bodies, for that matter. Vairagya: to be without raga; to be desireless. We learn to let go of the desire to acquire, and begin to inquire into the mystery. Where will this take us? What will we discover?

I remember in India one year Geeta stopping class to say that through the practice of asana and pranayama, the dormant (prasupta) kleshes can become fully blown (udaranam). They surface from the depths of us and, right then and there, we have the opportunity to weaken them with our presence and the light of our awareness. We then learn to face them (and life’s challenges) with grace and equanimity, and, and in doing so gradually learn how to live in a state of grace (like a clear, placid lake) in the face of adversity, which, rest assured, will come.

Resources: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

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Earlier

20 comments… add one

  • Stephanie

    When I practice yoga I intend to let go of hate and embrace love.

  • let go of ego
    embrace awareness

  • Deanne

    When I practice yoga I intend to let go stress and embrace tranquility.

  • Shira Kaplan

    When I practice yoga I intend to let go of fear and embrace love.

  • Jodi Sargent

    When I practice yoga I intend to let go of jealousy and embrace what is.

  • Kim

    “When I practice yoga I intend to let go of fear and to embrace love.”

  • Sharon Purvis

    “When I practice yoga I intend to let go of ego and to embrace my imperfect self.”

  • Sarah

    When I practice yoga, I intend to let go of my perceived limitations and embrace limitless possibilities

  • When I practice yoga I intend to let go of the negative and embrace the positive light.

  • “When I practice yoga I intend to let go of anxiety & stress and to embrace all of the good health and love of our family.”

  • gogoyogini

    When I practice yoga I intend to let go of anything that no longer serves me and embrace possibility! :)

  • Lisa

    When I practice yoga I intend to let go of the past and embrace what is to come.

  • Misa

    When I practice yoga I intend to let go of blame and to embrace forgiveness.

  • Meg

    “When I practice yoga I intend to let go of fear to embrace love.”

  • Tara

    When I practice yoga I intend to let go of suffering and embrace the present moment!

  • dara susini

    “When I practice yoga I intend to let go of matter and to embrace consiousness.”

  • Carol

    “When I practice yoga I intend to let go of expectations and ego and to embrace simplicity and the moment.”

  • Catherine

    When I practise yoga I intend to let go of anger and embrace equanimity.

  • Kiki

    When I practice yoga I intend to let go of tension and to embrace my body.

  • Riya

    “When I practice yoga I intend to let go of expectations and to embrace what is_.”

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