Making Space

I’m not sure anyone noticed but a couple of weeks ago I did a massive overhaul of my desk area, the one tucked away in the corner of the studio’s sitting area. Making space to write, I suppose.

One of my tasks was to go through a file box of “ideas” that had interested me over the years and organize them into categories that I thought would make for interesting posts for the “The Easy Seat”.

Many of these documents consist of random pieces of paper on which I have made notes, written down interesting quotes, little blurbs based out of what I was reading— either in books or on the inter web. Today I grabbed the one from the top of the stack.

On this page are a bunch of thoughts about yoga and healing, with no reference from where they originated. At the very top of the page I have written: “The goal of yoga is yoga itself.”

If I found that statement intriguing back when I wrote it so be it— today as I read it— I find it quite frustrating.

“The goal of yoga is yoga itself.” reads like a Zen Buddhist koan. You know, those maddening paradoxical stories and riddles used by “gurus” to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and are intended to provoke enlightenment.

It might be cynical of me to say but the practice of answering a question with another question is indeed a solid strategy when you don’t know the answer yourself. They alway ring condescending and moralistic to my unenlightened self.

The truth is that there as many definitions and interpretations about the goal of yoga as there are interpreters and dictionaries. I fall into the camp that yoga practice is about making space, as yoga will not work unless there is space made for it to exist.

Yoga is not something you read about, think about, or talk about—-Yoga is something you do. You must set aside time for your practice, make space for it to exist in your life and then you must actually do yoga.

If we are talking about the physical practice of yoga, then you would be implementing a selective set of exercises (asana) to create the space in your body that allows for ease in posture. Improving your asana practice over time by cultivating this ease with dedication and devotion.

Sutra 11:46 STHIRA SUKHAM ASANAM*
Posture should be steady and comfortable.

You will often hear me say while teaching a yoga class to take a deep breath in and grow your spine, or your fingertips, or your toes— long— and then as you exhale move (release) into the space that you have created.

Creating space within the framework of your own individual body that allows it to operate with ease, the ability to create that kind of space is always there, get in touch with it, use your very next breath and make the space to move deeper, grow taller, and find balance. Relax release and let go.

If we are talking about the meditative practice of yoga, then you should be sitting yourself down and implementing standard meditation protocol to create the kind of space in your mind that allows for stillness. Improving your meditation practice over time by cultivating this stillness with dedication and devotion.


Sutra 1:2 YOGAS CITTA VRTTI NIRODHAH
Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind.

Sutra 1:13 TATRA STHITAU YATNO BHYASAH
From these, the practice is the effort to be fixed in concentrating the mind.

Sutra 1:14 SA TU DIRGHA KALA NAIRANTARYA SATKARASEVITO DRDHA BHUMIH
Practice becomes firmly established when it is cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time.

Creating space within the framework of your own individual mind that allows it to operate unimpeded by extraneous thoughts, the ability to create that kind of space is always there, use your very next breath to create stillness in your mind, find balance, move inward. Capture release and let go.

Sutra 1:3 TADA DRASTUH SVARUPE VASTHANAM
When that is accomplished, the seer abides in its own true nature.

That is the definition of the goal of yoga as given by Patanjali is his Yoga Sutras. Dense mind boggling gobbledegook.

Not everyone can balance on their heads, but everyone can use their bodies to find balance, making their minds a quieter place, and in turn you just might use your head to make the world a better place.

It is not attaining enlightenment that leads to a quiet mind that is free of suffering, it is the yoga you practice along the way that provides the benefit. Focus on the practice instead of the goal, committing to the process rather than the end game.

A steady practice of showing up on your mat and sitting on your meditation cushion, making space for yoga to exist.

The Yoga of being still for the mind’s sake and the practice of being at ease for the body’s sake and not for enlightenments sake.

Or as my random sheet of paper would have it.

The goal of yoga is yoga itself.


*All Sanskrit and translations are courtesy of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Edwin F. Bryant

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