I remember when I was learning the Primary Series, I would read books and look at videos, trying to replicate what I read and saw--sometimes not fully understanding what I was doing or why. I wanted to master the postures. I didn’t want to touch my toes. No, I wanted to place my hands on the floor. My practice was pretty much posture-oriented. I wanted to do the asanas, all of them! I was under the impression that the better I was at the poses, the better yogi I would be.
It doesn’t matter how many times you reread the instructions or look at the videos. The postures will come when they come. They will come when you are truly ready, not necessarily when you think you are ready. This is hard to accept.
The postures are more than a physical feat. At first, they build up your ego, making you believe you can do it all...until you realize that you cannot, and you must take it one step at a time. Even when you believe you have figured out a posture, it doesn’t mean you will be able to do it every day. All you can do is show up, practice and put your forth your best effort.
The Bhagavad Gita speaks of renouncing the fruits of your action, or the results of your work. So how are you to do that? At times, this seems conflicting to me because everything we do produces a result. Not only that, I want results--in my asana practice as well as my life in general. There are many things I want to do, places I want to visit, books I want to read, postures I want to learn, goals I want to achieve. So how do I give up the results of my work?
"Thy human right is for activity only, never for the resultant fruit of actions. Do not consider thyself the creator of the fruits of thy activities; neither allow thyself attachment to inactivity." -Paramhansa Yogananda
One explanation I found that is quite easy to grasp is that if your ego is satisfied by your actions, then you have not renounced the fruits of your action. For example, if you see someone has dropped $50 on the street, what do you do? According to ancient yoga texts, you should tell the person they dropped it or pick it up and give it to them. If you are expecting a thank you or you want your good deed to be noticed, then you have missed the point. Even if the person doesn’t say thank you, you should be satisfied that you did the correct thing by giving it back. You renounced the fruit of your action. Usually what happens is when your heart and intentions are in the right place, your good deeds will be recognized. But expecting recognition means you are not acting out of goodness. Again, hard to accept. We like to be acknowledged when we do a good deed.
But doing something only to be recognized means that once you’ve been acknowledged, you have achieved your goal. Where is the motivation to continue? Do good out of goodness, not because you want to be rewarded for what you did. So here’s a question: if you knew no one would notice, would you still give the money back?
Going back to my asana practice, the postures must serve a deeper purpose than satisfying my ego. It is said that the postures should destroy the ego, revealing over time the true self. Even if I am unable to perform all of the asanas, that doesn’t mean I stop practicing. On the contrary, I continue to practice every day.
Lots of love,