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Just another morning in Paradise

2.1 tapah svadhyaya ishvara-pranidhana kriya-yogah

Bouanchaud: The yoga of action is a way of discipline involving self-reflection based on the sacred texts and surrendering the fruits of action to a higher force.

Desikachar: The practice of Yoga must reduce both physical and mental impurities. It must develop our capacity for self-examination and help us understand that, in the final analysis, we are not the masters of everything we do.

Swami J: Yoga in the form of action (kriya yoga) has three parts: 1) training and purifying the senses (tapas), 2) self-study in the context of teachings (svadhyaya), and 3) devotion and letting go into the creative source from which we emerged (ishvara pranidhana).

Wow – just finished a week’s worth of Yoga School, which many people recognize as a code phrase for “I paid how much to have my ass handed to me thrice daily?” This year was both the most difficult and the most rewarding week of Yoga studies yet. The topic in hand: Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras – Kriya yoga, the yoga of action. Posturally, we were concentrating on finishing up our studies on the Extraordinary Postures that we had started last year.

My physical practice had pretty much gone to hell in the proverbial handbasket in the past year. The combination of the heart condition itself, the daily medications that wreck havoc on the body’s energy systems and a few other details (including sloth towards the end) had kept me off the mat in any serious disciplined way. At best, I was practicing postures every second or third day and so moving into a week where it was three postural practices a day was a bit of a shock to my system. I learned a bit of humility over that seven day span and for the record, I didn’t do all the postural practices. I had to dial down what I did do. I suspect I spent more time wrestling with my ego than I did doing savasana (the corpse pose). My upper body strength has gone from negligible to pathetic. But in the end, all of this is all right. In yoga, we learn and sometimes learn again, that every breath is a new moment, a new life. The past can’t be changed but we can take concrete steps now to improve things for the future.

On the other hand, this was the most rewarding yoga school experience of my life. Chapter 2 was written for people like me. It’s simple, direct and utterly pragmatic. Whereas I got lost in the abstractness of Chapter 1 around Sutra 1.40 onwards, this chapter was solid. I could see where every one of the aphorisms had a direct and immediate impact on my life, right here, right now. This, my friend, is my kind of yoga.

So what’s Chapter 2 all about? This is method. This is the instruction manual for how to do yoga – how to still those fluctuations of the mind spoken of in Chapter 1.

tapah svadhyaya ishvara-pranidhana kriya-yogah . This is the recipe for the yoga of action: reducing the physical and mental impurities of our body/mind equipment, reflection on our selves both in terms of action and thought in reference to the standards of the yogic ideal and learning that we’re not actually in charge of the universe and letting go of the fantasy that we are.

There’s another way of phrasing this: Kate — Clean up your act and stop making a mess of your life. Personally, I think I need a heaping helping of tapas, svadhyaya and ishvara pranidahana. The past year has been tough but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve made it somewhat tougher by backing away from my commitment to yoga as a life philosophy. For me, studies in Chapter 2 were a wake-up call. It’s time to get back on track, re-dedicate my efforts and stop with the pity party.

I have mixed emotions coming out of last week. Part of me feels chastised – I hear Patanjali’s voice echoing down through the centuries with a stern “Really, MacKay??? You know better…” And my imaginary Patanjali is right. I do know better, and that bit of knowledge that helps energize me and helps me refocus my energy. I came out of this week with a renewed sense of purpose – not that I have any inkling as to what my dharma is but more in the vein that I will never find my dharma if I don’t get off my ass and look for it.

Today’s practice: Samasthiti, Tadasana, Uttanasana, Utthita trikonasana, Utkatasana (relaxed),  Utthita trikonasana parivritti (as the principal posture), cat/child , headstand preparation (aka dolphin), apanasana, Supta baddakonasana, apanasana, savasana.

Thanks for reading and Namaste,



About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

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  1. Pingback: This ain’t no hair-shirt yoga: YSP 2.7 « Dharmayoga’s Weblog

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