Chapter 2 Verses 49 & 50
“Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness. Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do. When consciousness is unified however, all vain anxiety is left behind. There is no cause for worry, whether things go well or ill. Therefore, devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action.” – Eknath Easwaran
I love this interpretation of the word yoga- “yoga is skill in action”. I love everything about the practice of hatha yoga, all it’s many, many benefits…but none has been more useful or transformative in my own life than the ability to make discerning choices. Through a commitment to regular practice, maintained over many years, I am now better able to make wise choices that reaffirm what is most important to me and in keeping with the values I hold dear. This ability to remember what is most dear allows me to see my way through the maze of daily choices- both big and small- that make up my life. The ability to choose how we are going to act or react, in any given situation, is an ability that matures over time and is strengthened through our practices of yoga and meditation.
We may not always act in the most skillful way every time we are faced with difficulty or tension, but even the ability to recognize and reflect on our reactions and then think how we might act differently next time shows the dawning of wisdom. This wisdom is strengthened each time you step onto your mat, take your first deep breath, soften your mind and drop into your experience of the moment. The more aware we become the more skillful we become. And when we come up against challenge in the practice our ability to stay present builds the strength of that awareness. We begin to learn how to work with tension, or doubt, fear, or exhaustion. We learn how to keep the surface of the mind clear and the breath steady as we see our way through our challenges in the way that is most skillful. In this way, our work on the mat prepares us for the challenges we meet every day in our interactions with co-workers, loved ones, family, and community members. Indeed our progress on the path of yoga can be judged more honestly by the harmony of our relationships than by the length of our hamstrings!
So the next time you find yourself losing focus as you drop into negative self-judgement or striving in your practice of hatha yoga remember that you are working to strengthen something much stronger and harder to control than your physical body- you are developing your personality. And that leaves a much stronger impression on the people you know then your perfectly executed backbend ever will.