Friday, April 19, 2013

Sweet and Steady


  
Early one morning, as the sun began to peek above the horizon, I settled into a seat yet again, ready toSthira Sukham Asanam,-may the posture be steady and comfortable.
begin another day and another practice.  Recently returned from a stay at Kripalu Center  where some early morning teaching reminded me of the unique pleasure of rising before the sun, I've been inspired to try, yet again, to carve out a bit more time in the pre-dawn hour to prepare for the day ahead.   And my stay at Kripalu stirred something else as well, a long ago memory of my first teacher training.  On this morning, as I began to sink into practice, a long-forgotten phrase, a verse from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, echoed in my mind: 

                I recall well first learning this phrase.  After a month of intensive practice and study of some of the more profound yogic texts, these words seemed a bit of a letdown.   Steady and comfortable?  I dutifully memorized and chanted the words, but their meaning did not quite register.  In fact, I never did revisit these words until the moment they reappeared at the forefront of my mind.  This time their depth did not escape me.

                Having spent a fair amount of time in meditation of late, I have learned to appreciate the steadiness that comes as a result of deepening my capacity for contentment and concentration, my connection to awareness; but this is only a part of the picture.  Steadiness is not just a result of our practice, but also a starting point, a passageway into growth for us all.  On this day, Patanjali's words spoke to me of a vital need for a balanced, easeful, and steady foundation.
  
I often begin my Advanced Practice classes with a reminder about an important premise; one that is often overlooked by yoga students and teachers in the west.  There are in fact two distinct (though often intertwined) threads within the practice of yoga.  One deals with purifying and bringing the body into balance.  The other with inviting more energy into our systems.  When we invite more energy into a system that is taxed, ill, or out of balance, injury or further illness may result.  Even for healthy and experienced practitioners, incorporating both of these approaches is an essential part of our growth.
  
This is often a new concept, even for seasoned students of yoga.  How often we dive into a practice in the hopes of building more energy only to place those hopes on a foundation not secure enough to sustain the increase.  And how often we fail to take even a few minutes to determine what we REALLY need.
  
In recent years I've learned to begin each of my own practices with a question:  What is it that would best serve my system right now?  And whether I end up in restorative yoga, deep meditation, or a vigorous flow, I've found that my practice rarely follows the course I thought it might.  Sometimes I'm surprised to discover just how tired I am, and others I tap into new reserves of energy, opening into the vast possibility that accompanies each arrival on the mat.
  
The progression of a practice, like the arc of our lives, often begins and ends with sweet simplicity, and each of the varied and limitless expressions that appear between serve as an example of the essence that lies just beneath the surface.  When we build our practice on a foundation of balance we create an opportunity in both directions, to dive deeper inward and branch ever outward, exploring the full potential of our unique selves from the seat of steadiness and ease.   Sthira sukham asanam.  May your posture be sweet and steady!
  
  
~with deep gratitude to my first Kripalu Yoga teacher, 
Devarshi Steven Hartman~

Kate Pousont Scarborough, 
RYT 500, Director Shelburne Falls Yoga

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