Tapas part 3

the moving target

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” 

-Stephen Hawking

Why do you practice yoga?

Before I answer that question for myself, sometimes its necessary for me to reflect on what I consider part of my yoga practice. Do I always have to be on a yoga mat when I practice? Do I have to follow a set sequence, or can I sit typing at my desk with breath and awareness and call that yoga? Yoga means union, connection. What are we connecting to?

How many people practice yoga to disconnect from stress, technology, a busy schedule, or a basic idea of what they don’t want to be or embody? I practice with those goals in mind, too, but also with the intention of connecting to something that gives meaning to my practice. But what is that something?

If you’re religious, maybe that point of connection is God; if you’re not part of a traditional religion, maybe your practice is driven by something more general, like appreciating nature, or serving your community. Maybe it is something more personal, like getting to know yourself better on all levels, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

There is always something we’re aiming for, even if it is something as simple as finding physical comfort or a meal to satiate our hunger. But usually there is something bigger, like an ideal job, a home, a relationship, peace, happiness. For most people that particular target changes or moves: we thought we wanted one thing, but our desires change over time. Or we achieve something and it’s not quite what we thought it was. We change our minds; it’s sometimes hard to settle on our goal and accept the results of our actions when they don’t turn out exactly as we expected.

There’s so much in yoga about finding stillness (in the body, in the mind, in meditation). In that stillness, we can find peace, clarity, and guidance. But initially, it’s the movement aspect that attracts people, who come to the practice for discipline, exercise, better health, or balance. In my experience, the truest stillness is not complete stillness, but a series of tiny adjustments to keep that balance. Think of a balance board.

Sure, there are times of total surrender, zero effort, like in savasana, where the ground is supporting you. It’s like the opposite of standing on a balance board which requires you to engage your core. Savasana is a moment of minimal or no effort, but the breath is still moving. And most likely, the mind is still moving, too.

Tapas is those small, constant adjustments that help you keep your eye on the prize. Forget the perfect triangle pose or warrior pose. Let’s practice smooth transitions with complete awareness on breath and the present moment. Let’s celebrate the awkward in-betweens, where it’s not totally obvious which pose you are coming from or going to, and through that process, let’s remember we are ever changing, always becoming, developing, transitioning.

Can you practice moving and feeling through simple transitions between postures? No need to emphasize the perfect pose. The transitions become the practice. As you move between yoga postures, or tasks in life - from having morning coffee to making breakfast to getting yourself (and maybe your kids) out the door - do you make those transitions with breath and awareness? Can you make every moment the destination, rather than rushing towards your preferred parts of the day?

This weekend I’ll post some photos and perhaps a video on putting this into practice on the yoga mat.