Many mornings I struggle to get out of bed. I often get up at 6:30 am to attend class with my teacher, Heide, in her morning intensives, which meet from 7:30-9:30 (and are highly recommended--she’ll kick your ass and change your life!) I love going to class with Heide, and I know that the struggle to get up is part of the practice, but I am really not a morning person.
So when the alarm goes off, all hell breaks loose inside me. Sometimes I’m quick enough to turn off the alarm, throw back the covers, and leap out of bed. Any less and I’m liable to a) snooze three times so I’m panting and stressed when I arrive to class ten minutes late, b) snooze five times so when I finally rouse myself, it’s too late to even try to go, or c) turn the alarm off in defeat and wake up at 9:30 or 10:00, my preferred hours to get up. (I’m a night owl, tried and true.)
Often the argument inside is simple, a battle of wills between my inner insolent child and my loving but firm adult self.
“I’m exhausted,” says the voice that sounds a little like Kid Me.
“You’ll feel better once you’re up and moving,” says the maybe Grown Me.
“I don’t wanna go. I don’t even like yoga,” Kid says.
“You’re absurd. That’s not true. Now get your tush out of this bed,” Grown replies.
And I get up, and dress myself, and go to class, and lo and behold, I feel better. And I like yoga. But sometimes the conversation is harder to discern what’s going on, who is the adult, who is the child, and which voice to listen to. It goes like this:
“I’m EXHAUSTED,” says Kid Me.
“You’ll feel better once you’re up and moving?,” says Grown Me.
“But maybe I just need to rest. I’ve been working so hard. Sleeping in would be good for me. Sometimes the yoga practice means doing less, you know?” says Kid Me. “Also maybe my throat hurts.”
“Probably you should get up?,” says Grown.
"Really??" whines Kid.
“Shit, I don’t know," Grown sighs. "Do whatever you want.”
And on and on it goes. In the background Kid Me snickers and turns the alarm clock off. I wake up three hours later feeling heavy, groggy, and disappointed.
And here is where the yogic concept of Prajna comes into play. Prajna is translated as clear understanding, intuitive knowing, and most simply, as discernment. Prajna is the ability to tell the difference between the voice that says, “I don’t feel like going to class,” and the voice that says, “Rest would be the most compassionate choice.”
Prajna tells you the difference between a teacher who truly gets you and one who is not a good fit. Prajna points out the difference between the uncomfortable sensations that you must endure to progress in your practice, and the type of pain that will injure or harm you. We work to cultivate this discernment as a quality of practice. Otherwise, we might injure a shoulder or pull a hamstring, or never even make it to class in the first place.