The Inbetween Times

I was asked a great question this week by a student brand new to yoga: how do we maintain a yoga practice in the time between our yoga class?  It's a good question, particularly as most of us begin yoga with the idea that yoga asana (physical postures) is what it's all about.

Patanjali, of course, has already given us the answer: yoga is not a practice for an hour and a half, twice a week in the studio of your choice with a teacher you love, although you may well find your inspiration there and a sense of community amongst your fellow yogis; no, yoga is a practice for all of your life, on and off your mat, for every age and stage.

That's why the first two limbs of yoga are the Yamas and Niyamas - guidance on how to live well.  Patanjali advises that if we are peaceful, honest, do not steal, have self-restraint and are not greedy, then we will find our burdens lifted and our path cleared of many complications; if we stay healthy, content, commit to our path, study and let go into the mystery, then we'll find ourselves moving forward with faith and living more skilfully.

These tenets provide the basis for all classical yoga practice, and appear in the Yoga Sutras before asana, breathing practice, or meditation.  They are that important.  And we practice them everywhere and all the time.

So, when you move in peace through your day, being grateful for what you have and mindful of how your actions and words impact the world; when you abstain from habits that take you away from feeling your physical best; when you remember all through your week that you are not in control of your life, but feel instead humble before the greatness of a world in which you are just one small part; when you constantly renew your commitment to your faith and its teachings and when you seek to live by those teachings and to delve into their deeper meaning; when you are forever grateful for the things you have in your life; when you take just enough and not one thing more and you consider the impact of everything you buy, consume and do on yourself, your wider community and the environment; when you do all of these things throughout every day, week, year...  Then you are practising yoga and allowing your practice to mature in the fire of everyday life.

Being mindful of the commitment you have made to be your own most generous and vibrant self in the world is something that you can do all of the time, from the moment you get up to the second you fall asleep at night (even while you are asleep). 

A weekly formal practise with your teacher is an opportunity to be stretched, to question, to receive comfort and be reassured - it is a wonderful thing to come together and be reminded of all the good things yoga has to offer.  But in truth, there is nowhere that you need to go to do your practice; it is working its way into your life all of the time, as Patanjali says:

"For those who have an intense urge for Spirit and wisdom, it sits near them, waiting."
Yoga Sutra I:21
Translated by Mukunda Stiles

It's in the inbetween times that the real work is done.


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