Defining Practice

One of the beauties of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is that the terms introduced in a sutra are often defined by the ones that follow.  The concepts of practice and detachment mentioned in Sutra 1.12 are further defined in Sutras 1.13-16.  Sutras 1.13 & 1.14 expand on the meaning of practice.

Sutra 1.13  tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasah – practice is the steadfast effort to still the fluctuations of the mind.

Sutra 1.14 ta tu dirghakala nairantarya satkara asevitah drdhabhumih – practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time.

Thus, Patanjali offers us insight into what constitutes a practice.  Consistent effort is required over a long period of time.  There is no mention of specific asanas or the level of difficulty in one’s practice.  Instead the emphasis is on steady and focused effort.  In this way, yoga is attainable by all students regardless of their physical abilities.

I often tell my students that it is better to have a daily 5 minute practice than an erratic hour long one.  Likewise, it is not the amount that one sweats that determines a practice.  As we travel down the path, our challenge is to stay open to all that is put before us.  Moment to moment.  Step by step.  Breathing in, breathing out.

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