“Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah – Practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness.”Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar (Chapter 1, Verse 12)
This verse of the Yoga Sutras is especially important to me these days as I feel plunged into chaos in the world around me. In life, we all undergo these periods of chaos sometimes. Staying calm through a vicious storm is the strongest spiritual practice I have experienced to date. Learning how to practice acceptance amidst the struggles of life gives us a solid ground to stand on while we face things head-on. To balance the need of taking action in life when necessary while also accepting the uncontrollable nature of chaos is what I have found to be the only solution, and also my greatest challenge.
As chaos whirls around us, it can be so easy to get sucked into the eye of the storm and allow it to pull our energies down. But by standing firm in your inner being, quieting the ripples of your consciousness, accepting the uncontrollability of chaos, and pushing forward through the storm, we can all learn to withstand these times.
How Does Stress Impact Your Yoga Practice?
Through these chaotic times, I have found it especially hard to stay focused, but also especially necessary to stay firm in my yoga practice. When faced with difficulties, it can be easy for me to want to just give up, escape, or curl into a ball, these are the times of my greatest personal challenge. But over time, I have slowly built up my will to persevere, to push through the difficulties in life while also accepting the chaos as it is.
Standing on the balancing see-saw of practice and acceptance is a truly complicated feat. The Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr, represents this balancing act well:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”Reinhold Niebuhr
The Connection Between Practice and Detachment in Yoga
Understanding the balance between practice and detachment is very complex. When do we push forward? And when do we walk away? These are questions I still struggle to learn and understand. But by developing my ability to listen to my inner voice, I have gotten better at this ability over time.
Many people often view action and acceptance as a split duality, but these two things are actually deeply interconnected. If we move too firmly into one side or the other, we become unbalanced. But by uniting these two sides of life, we can come into a more integrated response and a more integrated version of ourselves. Health and awakening are all about finding balance and inner union between these two opposing energies.
How to Practice Acceptance on the Yoga Mat
Developing inner acceptance and also cultivating the will for action can all be accomplished through an integrated yoga practice, incorporating all parts of the 8-limbs. Yoga asana practice, in particular, combines both the movement and force of strong action with the quiet flow of the breath and inner acceptance. Yoga asana practice pushes you to move forward, but also to accept your current state and ability. To move to your edge of ability, but then stay there and practice acceptance is a feat on its own.
Next time you are practicing yoga asana, try to find this balancing point in your own practice. To move into a pose and physically take action but to also practice accepting your limits. Use your breath to guide you through this journey of action and detachment, balancing on this see-saw of life and uniting these opposing energies to create a more integrated you.