Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra-s (YS) I-12 Abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyām-tannirodhaḥ
That centred, grounded state (tannirodhaḥ) can be reached both by letting in something new (abhyāsa) and by letting go of something old (vairāgyābhyām).
What is Abhyāsa? Practicing Something New Abhy+ās, to practice being (-ās) fully present (abhy-), begins with committing (atha, YS I,1) to letting in new patterns of thinking and behaviour (samskāra-s) that replace old, dysfunctional ones no longer serving us.
In 2001, when I first started studying with my teachers DV & Radha Sridhar and Viji Vasu at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India, I was introduced to their basic Yoga Therapy teachings. One of the first lessons learnt was that when designing a Yoga practice for someone with addictions like smoking, the student was never asked to give up the addiction before starting the practice. He was only asked to do one new thing, to start practicing what had been prescribed. The openness of this allowing process created a paradigm shift for me.
As I studied further, I learnt that my Yoga teachers/therapists weren’t interested in digging around the past, releasing old traumas from our childhoods. The main goal was to fan the flames of enthusiasm/trust (śraddhā, see YS I, 20-22) so that our trust in them and our Yoga practice grew. The therapeutic relationship and practice itself would heal us by promoting self-love with which addictions would just naturally drop away in their own time.
How do we let go? We are all addicted to something in life. We all have those dysfunctional patterns that just won’t let us off the wheel of futile behavior. How do we find the strength to let them go (vairāgyābhyām)?
In my own life, as I try to let go of a major relationship attachment (rāga kleśa – see YS II-3), I am opening myself up to new ways of being in the world to replace the hole that this break up has left in my heart and life. I am also looking for new practices and activities (abhyāsa) to strengthen my ability to let go (vairāgyābhyām).
Next week, we will explore many yogic tools of support that guide us home to that centred, grounded state (tannirodhaḥ) called Yoga.
Yoga Sutra Question What can I let in to let go?