Wednesday, June 1, 2011


It was a Tin Man morning.  You know, one of those where “Oil Can!” replaced Om Saha Navavatu as the opening chant.  [Side note.  Calling for the oil can is different than calling “WINCH!”  For all you non Jeep enthusiasts, one calls for the winch when they are completely stuck and unable to extricate themselves from a situation.  It happened to me once, when, without exaggeration, I came very close to breaking my neck.  The teacher laughed.  I am still very sore over that reaction.  Not very yoga of me, but owning the gross and icky feelings are the first step to overcoming them]

Even though nothing was moving, I still did my practice.  Sri Pattabhi Jois said “Do your practice, and all is coming.”  This was the oil can that got me moving.

Do This practice requires effort.  It is not a spectator sport.  When learned teachers state “You cannot learn yoga from books,” they mean that one does not succeed in the practice through intellectual understanding. Even the Jnana Yogis—those whose practice is focused upon intense study of the ancient texts—put the knowledge into practice.  Do does not mean judge.  Today’s practice will be different than yesterday’s and tomorrow’s.  You are not the same person right now as you were or will be. Be OK with that.

Your This practice belongs to the individual.  A teacher can illuminate options, but they cannot do the practice for you.  Yoga is a science.  It requires consistent, thoughtful experimentation.  Not all practices are appropriate for all individuals (a valid practice is the one that works for you).  However, you cannot expect success if you just jump from method to method or make it up as you go along.  Pick a legitimate style (one that is systematic, time-tested, and is taught by those who know what they are doing) and experiment with it.  Let the practice be your guide.  Investigate it.  Read about it.  Be open to “coincidences” as teaching points. [For instance, the above mentioned teacher studies under and promotes a “renunciate” who is accused of murder. Coincidence?  Laughing at potentially serious injury and promotion of a “holy” man accused of heinous deeds is not my practice, and not influences I want surrounding my practice, no matter how fun the asanas were.  You must investigate and make your own decisions about your teachers.] Take the teachings you learned in group classes and practice them at home.  Make them yours, not the teacher’s, not the group’s.

Practice  Is both similar to and different from the sports connotation surrounding the word.  Like sports, yoga practice is an opportunity to learn and improve.  There is an implication of “failure,” that is, we use practice time to screw up and learn from our screw ups so that we can perform optimally in the big game.  Here is the main difference.  When I swam in high school (well, flailed around in chlorinated water), we practiced 3 hours a day, 6 days a week—18 hours of practice per week.  We had 2 meets per week, and I averaged 3 events per meet.  My longest event ran under 1:30.  So that 18 hours was all to benefit about 9 minutes of total performance.  Yoga practice is the opposite.  Practicing 1.5 hours per day, 6 days per week gives 9 hours of practice time.  There are 168 hours in a week.  The big game is the other 159 hours spent outside of practice.

Without these 3 elements, “All is coming” will not arrive.  Find your oil can, whatever it may be.  Find your winch, whatever that may be. Overcoming the inertia to not practice IS practice. 

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