Practice and Detachment

Once in a while I look to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for inspiration and guidance.  This week I happened upon Sutra 1.12 – abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah.  One translation for this sutra is “Practice and detachment are the means of stilling the movements of the mind”.  Stilling the mind is one of the definitions of yoga.  It means that we don’t get swept away by the fluctuations which occur moment to moment in our heads.  Instead, we reside in the stillness underneath.  Doing so requires, you guessed it, practice and detachment.  Most of us understand the meaning of practice.  What about detachment?

To me, detachment is removing the desire for specific results and allowing the process to unfold.  It can be rewarding to practice when graced with improvement.  But what happens when one hits a plateau or there is no improvement?  Can you continue to practice without progressing in a pose, or at least not in the way you might expect?

I have always thought that if I tried hard and did all the steps along the way, I would be able to master a pose.  This has worked for me with many of the poses which I didn’t enjoy initially.  Through practice I’ve become “friends” with many poses.  BUT, I have always struggled in shoulderstand.  I’ve been shifted and lifted, and propped and padded, in more ways than I care to think about.  Has this eased my discomfort in the pose?  Not really.  The thing that has improved my shoulderstand the most is realizing that it may never change.  At least not the outer form.  And guess what?  I still don’t feel like I’m in “the queen of poses” in shoulderstand but I have felt a shift in my attitude.

Through practice I’ve lessened my attachment to my discomfort.  Sound weird?  Yeah, but right now it’s what works for me.  Sure, I could give up the pose, but as long as I don’t cause myself harm I’m going to keep working on practice and detachment… and shoulderstand.  I think it’s got more to teach me.

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