Avidya

Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, tells us that avidya is wrong thinking; avidya is believing that we are in control, believing that we are separate, believing that we are imperfect.  The practice of yoga is intended to help us to overcome wrong-thinking, that we might be able to live life in perfect tune with who we really are, making choices which serve the purpose of our soul and which positively serve the world and ourselves.

Yoga practice doesn't bring us anything that we do not already have, it doesn't create anything new in us; yoga practice simply helps us to strip away the barriers that are in the way of our true selves, that which obstructs our essence and which stands between us and peace.  In this sense, yoga practice can be likened to the peeling of an onion, we work to strip away the layers of stress, pressure, imagination, ideas of who we are meant to be and how life would be things were different and nothing went wrong.

A successful yoga practice is one that sees us take off the heavy overcoat of avidya, of thinking too much, of struggling.  This is what we do when we are on our mats.  We remember who we are; we remember that we are a perfect part of the universe, perfect as we are because there is no other way to be than who we are.  Our practice continues beyond our mat when we seek to leave the overcoat on the hanger for as long as possible.  It is so easy to begin again... trying to work everything out, attempting to second guess what might be coming, what might happen next, seeking to protect ourselves against uncertainty, putting the overcoat back on, with its heaviness and its creation of a barrier between us and the world.

Try living without the overcoat for as long as you can between practice; try to notice when you begin the shrug the overcoat across your shoulders; try to remember that nobody, ever, has been able to predict the future or to work everything out in advance.  To leave that overcoat on a hanger in a cupboard in the hall is to surrender to the fact that we do not know; to resist putting it back on is to yield to the wonderful, terrible, joyful, didactic chaos of life; to walk through life without that overcoat is to acknowledge that we cannot know what is coming, we cannot work everything out, that we must trust in life and in ourselves.

You can tell how hard it is to do this by how few people you know who are able to do it.  The challenges that yoga presents us with is part of its charm!  Human beings have always sought to control the uncontrollable - making sacrifices in the hope of good harvests, making intricate plans that never come to fruition - the aim of yoga is not to have us behave irresponsibly, only for today, with no plans, but it is to have us stop battling quite so much, to recognise that it doesn't work, to allow ourselves to move forward in a fluid, open-hearted, open-minded way and to ensure that the way we live is congruent with the way we feel.  It is challenging to live this way, but it is energising, it is invigorating, it is enlivening.  It is what yoga is all about.

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