It’s a New Year. Yet I’m the same. I still love yoga, walking in the woods, and reading books. In the drive to set intentions for 2017 and, with it, a sudden reinvention of the self, I find myself rooting firmly in what I know to be true for me.
B.K.S. Iyengar in his book The Tree of Yoga writes about what is necessary for a true asana practice. He calls them “yogic vitamins.” They include “faith, memory, courage, absorption, and uninterrupted awareness of attention.” He insists these yogic vitamins are required for one’s yoga practice, for it’s with these five aspects that one can eventually—over the course of a lifetime—become one with the Universal Self.
We all come to our yoga practice for different reasons, but I do believe, at the heart of it, we practice to bring harmony to some aspect of our lives. We can seek union with the smallest of aspects—our relationship with how we manage a project at work. Or we can seek union with the most expansive of aspects—connecting with the Universe to unite the world in peace. Yoga gives us a platform to do both. How magical is that?
Yet I can honestly say that, as a devoted yogini and teacher, I don’t always take my “yogic vitamins” as prescribed by Mr. Iyengar. When practicing asana I lose faith in my strength sometimes. I don’t always remember what comes next in a vinyasa sequence when I’m teaching. My lack of faith leads to lack of courage and I forgo stepping onto my mat to practice. When I do step back onto my mat I’ll be in the middle of prasarita padottanasana and get an idea. I’ll jump from my mat to my desk to write it down and break the flow of absorption from the asana, which leads to a total interruption in my awareness of attention, so I scold myself for not staying in awareness, then tell myself it’s okay and I should be compassionate with myself, and then resume my practice.
It’s a New Year. Yet I’m the same.
Being able to admit that to myself (and you, dear reader) is liberating. It reminds me of what teacher, author, and American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron always says, “Start where you are.” Acknowledging what is true for us—our habits, beliefs, desires, ideas—seems the first step in being able to then acknowledge what’s possible. We have to empty to fill.
When you come to practice yoga with your community at Kasa, or practice at home, you empty and make room to connect with yourself in an honest and open way. It’s the first step, and is what allows for you to then take your “yogic vitamins.”
For I do think Iyengar is onto something, don’t you? I think he’s right. I think I’d like, in this New Year, to vow to take one yoga vitamin of faith, memory, courage, absorption, and awareness a day and see where it gets me. Maybe I’ll make a “yogic smoothie” or a “yogic multivitamin.”
Maybe I’ll come to practice and teach with you at Kasa and something in myself will start to change, quietly, slowly, deeply, and lovingly. Maybe by next year I won’t be the same.
You be the judge. See you in class.