As mentioned last week, class themes move onto the Kleshas- obstacles that we build and so have the power to dismantle, if we choose to. Avidya translates often as spiritual ignorance, clouds that obscure our ability to see our true inner selves. The aspects of this are described as Asmita (sense of “I am”), Raga (sense of want, desire beyond what we need), Dvesha (aversion, avoidance), and Abhinivesha (fear of change, of things coming to an end.)
I find it helpful to think of the Kleshas as vines growing in a garden, obscuring what lies behind them. When we slowly start to strip the vines away, we reveal once more what had been obscured. It remained there the whole time; we just had trouble seeing it. And if we ever ignore the vines, they will grow back again.
So once more in our yoga practice, we can try to stay connected to essentials, even when new postures and unfamiliar vinyasas arrive- this week in the form of Moon Sequences. Do we become entangled in the vines of the asanas, or can we see beyond them and still stay connected to our breath with a clear mind?
I am gearing up to review the Kleshas, aspects of ourselves, sometimes referred to as afflictions, which hinder our progress. But before that, a few thoughts on the yoga concept of Pratipaksha Bhavanam- to take another view or perspective. If you are in a negative pattern- feelings, words, energy- then first of all, recognise that this is going on. Step away from this pattern for a few moments and be that non judging observer. Then make a decision to reframe your perspective to a positive one each time you notice negativity creeping in.
Sometimes in a yoga class, the teacher will invite a different approach to a familiar asana. You are encouraged to step away from the habitual, and see what you discover. It could be entering an asana a different way, slightly changing the distance between the feet, or the angle of a back foot, that becomes a breakthrough moment for you and opens up new possibilities. Or you could choose one thing to be your primary focus for an entire practice, e.g. your grounding, playing with slight alterations to observe the effect. Each cultivates the ability to actively observe what is going on and take decisions to make positive changes.
So be aware of your habitual patterns, when they have become unhelpful, and then take another view and see where it leads.
After my three week break, I am re-reading recent postings and get the sense that it all comes back to some pretty simple and yet frustratingly elusive things. One of my holiday reads was Yoga School Dropout by Lucy Edge. It starts as a light read as she travels through India from ashram to ashram, sampling as from a pick and mix, searching for The Place with The Answers. Her story is told with much humour and self deprecation, and whilst she figures out some key things, she still has a long journey ahead at the close of the book. But what she does conclude is that it is less important what you do than how you do it.
On our mats we can bear this in mind in our ability stay connected to the sense of moving meditation with our breath control. And also in our choice of asana, how we actively work in the pose, and what we discover. We can be mindful of when we are straining or taking things too far, but also when we have slackened off too much, perhaps in less challenging poses. So breath by breath, keep tuned into how you are working- no autopilot and no overdrive!
Ruth is a yoga therapist and yoga teacher based in Cheltenham, UK. She emphasises yoga as a tool for well-being, for individuals and in her classes, in person or via zoom.