Sutra 1.13: Tatra Sthitau Yatnah Abhayasa
Practice means striving to be there.
Quieting the mind comes in many forms, but it doesn’t come free for any of us. This is the real work of the yoga practice. The dedicated effort of moving towards stillness is called abhyasa in Sanskrit. In the Sutras, it’s paired with vairagya or non-attachment. Both of these, practice and detachment, must be held in tandem, in balance, in order to move towards quieting the mind.
But we must start with effort. Donna Farhi, in her great book which I often quote, Bringing Yoga To Life, describes this as the running start we all must take. It’s standing to pump the pedals before you bike up a hill. This effortful effort is necessary to give us momentum. Without it, we’re forever inert, stalled out and stagnant at the bottom of the hill.
And it likely won’t be easy. One translation describes abhyasa as a “continuous struggle.” There are many obstacles to overcome--fear of failure, as in, ‘I might screw this up, so why bother trying?’; perfectionism, as in, ‘I already screwed this up so I’ll just quit now, thank you’; pain, as in ‘This is uncomfortable in my body or heart, and thus, I’ll be done now never to return’; and laziness, ie, ‘It would be so much nicer to just keep eating Halloween candy and watching Fleetwood Mac videos on Youtube,’ (or maybe that’s just me?)
But this steady discipline, this persistent effort, this persevering practice known as abhyasa, is what paves the path for our transformation. It’s a straight shot back to your own essence, a direct line to who you really are. And it’s so worth it.