What we Need vs. What we Want: Thoughts on Personal Practice

As personal asana practice develops one of the challenges and opportunities is learning how to make it work for you on a regular basis, over time. Without a teacher to tell you, how do you choose what to practice? How do you know what you need?

Viveka, discrimination, is one the most essential disciplines of the yogi. It is the ability to distinguish between what is pleasurable and what is beneficial. And, to be able choose the latter.

Applied to the long-term engagement with our practice, discrimination asks that we navigate the tension between what we might want to do and what will serve us best.

When I feel tired or stressed, what is the proper response? Depending on my tendencies, I might be inclined to practice what feels good, easy and comfortable. Or I might tend to work through the resistance and fatigue for a stronger, more strenuous practice. Of course, there are times when either of these might be what I most need. The question is how do I know?

Here are three qualities that help foster the skill of discrimination. They work together to inform our choices.

·      Clarity that comes from taking an honest account of our selves and the bigger picture our lives. This includes our energy level, state of mind, and whatever else is happening on any given day. From a broader perspective we stand a better chance at discerning what will serve.

·      Knowledge of our body, our mind and their tendencies. From experience, we learn how we tend toward imbalance and what brings us back into harmony.  The effects of the postures, modes of practice and sequences also inform our understanding.

·      Willingness to subdue the desire of the ego so that we may hear the voice of our deeper wisdom. And, be willing to listen to what it has to say.