The yogic wings of practice and detachment can help us “wake up”
By Debi Buzil
While visiting a yoga ashram in the Bahamas, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. with a bell, sat for meditation, daily chants and inspirational talks each morning and again in the evening, plus practiced yoga twice a day. Waking before sunrise, I felt alive and vibrant.
At home I am Ms. Snooze, pressing the button over and over for “five more minutes.”
How do I take the ashram experience home? Can I keep that awareness and vibrancy,
and implement the changes I desire by incrementally working them into my day? How can yoga help us find our dharmic path, the “right way of living”?
The answer can be found in what’s considered the “two wings” of yoga: abhyāsa and vairāgya. Yoga Sutra chapter 1 verse 12, “Abhyāsavairāgyābyhāṃ Tannirodhaḥ” translates that yoga, or union exists through practice and detachment. This sutra advises that practice and detachment are the two means to elevate the movements of consciousness. If we want to maintain clarity and a calm attitude as our soul’s desires are examined, we need to soar on both these wings.
Yoga is the great transformer. Sustained practice helps clear your mind and can help you see things as they really are. These changes can be exciting, yet unsustainable for those who catch the yoga bug and move too quickly. Some students discover yoga, and show up every day for two weeks, striving for longer hamstrings and craving instant inner peace. Then we never see them again!
It is better to dedicate yourself to yoga for the long haul and to commit to a couple classes a week and a little home practice. There are no quick fixes; time and patience are needed to cultivate this type of understanding.
Abhyāsa, or practice, ensures that we put in effort and enthusiasm towards our goals. When we are stuck in mindless repetition, our movement and intelligence may be dry and uninspired. Yoga is a joyful practice, thus our efforts should be cheerful and charged.
To change our path, or change our outcomes, we must work to change our minds, through the purification techniques of a devoted spiritual practice. These techniques include practicing postures, breathwork, meditation and self-study, cultivating the unfolding of consciousness.
Vairāgya, or detachment, can sound cold or uncaring, but actually it is a liberation from
our yearnings. When we “detach” from our judgments, attractions and aversions, we can begin to experience something that may have been lost, creating space to shine brightly. We can experience our own divine nature. By reflecting on who we really are, these desires and yearnings begin to fade. We can be in the present. It is in combination with our ability to remember the self with practice (abhyāsa), that we experience grace and ease as our path unfolds.
Though I still have occasional struggles with the snooze button, I’ve now set my alarm clock 10 minutes earlier than usual, so I can wake and have a longer meditation in the morning. I want to do it, but I let go of any judgment if I don’t make it. My aim is “practice, not perfection.”
It’s not easy to make long-lasting changes. Through abhyāsa and vairāgya, we can fly right, and fly straight, towards our soul’s desire.
Debi Buzil is the leader of Chicago-based Kirtan group Devi 2000. She is a longtime teacher and student, and a mother of two.