In the yoga sutras Patanjali describes two guiding concepts: abhyasa and vairagya as a key to yoga and to gain control of the mind. Abhyasa refers to persevering practice: a spiritual practice which is regular and constantly practices over a long period of time. Vairgaya can be described as non-attachment or abandonment, in particular from the pains and pleasures in the material word. On the surface these two concepts can be seem as opposites: practice requires the exercise of the will or discipline, while non-attachment seems more a matter of surrender. In fact they are complementary within your yoga practice. Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way. There are basically two directions you can go in live: towards truth and away from truth. Let’s have a closer look.
Abhyasa implies action without interruption or action that is not easily distracted, discouraged or bored. It means cultivating the lifestyle, actions, speech and thoughts, as well as the spiritual practices that lead you in the right direction. Abhyasa is its own catalyst: the more you practice, the more you would like to practice and the faster you develop. Another meaning of abhyasa is ‘to be present’. This is a reminder that for an effective practice, you should aim to be intensely present to what you’re doing. Eventually, this mindful doing and being becomes part of your everyday life and is present in everything we do. To truly achieve this kind of commitment and constancy, vairagya or non-attachment has to be included as well.
Vairagya can be translated into ‘growing pale’. Our consciousness is typically ‘colored’ by our attachment to objects, other people, ideas or other things. These attachments influence how you identify with others and yourself. Vairagya refers to letting go of the mental coloring, so your consciousness becomes a transparent jewel. This allows the light of your authentic Self to shine through brilliantly without distortion. You will no longer thirst for either earthly objects or spiritual attainments. Another translation of vairagya is release, surrender or letting go. Though, the first step should involve the practice of discrimination: becoming better at discriminating between what actions, speech, and thoughts take you in the right direction and those which are doing the reverse. Gradually, non-attachment can expand to the depth of the subtlest building blocks or gunas of ourselves and the universe, which is called paravairagya or supreme non-attachment.
Abhyasa and vairagya are often compared to the wings of a bird; every yoga practice should aim to include these two elements equally. The persistent effort to realize the goal and a corresponding surrender of worldly attachment that stand in the way. In life as a whole it is important to alternate periods of intense activity and rest. Abhyasa can also be translated into ‘constant exercise’ and vairagya into ‘dispassion’.
Within your yoga practice and within your life it is all about creating a healthy balance. At times you need that extra push to get yourself on your mat or to a yoga class. Other moments some more feminine or soft energy is welcome to surrender to the magical experience of life and yoga. At the moment my focus is on vairagya or to surrender to my life exactly how it is now. Letting go of the need to rush the process and developing more trust in the universe and myself. Aim for more rest in my life and in my yoga practice and above all find and enjoy the peace within myself.