Chapter 2: Stability – The physical body (Asana)
2.1. The true nature of health
2.2. Awareness: Every pore of the skin has to become an eye
2.3. Dynamic Extension: From the core of your being
2.4. Relaxation: In every pose there should be repose
2.5. Lightness: Think light and feel light
2.6. Balance: Evenness is harmony
2.7. Pain: Find comfort even in discomfort
2.8. Perfecting: Always be happy with the smallest improvement
Let the goal be to reach perfection, but be content with a little progress towards perfection every day. Over-ambition can be destructive of sustainable progress. We are creatures that can dream of perfection, and it is this dream that inspires one to improve. It is this dream that ignites the effort needed to transform.
Sometimes our body is willing, but our mind is weak and says, “We don’t have time,” or “Forget it, it is not worth all the effort.” Sometimes it is our mind that is willing, but our body is weak and says, “I am really too tired for all this trouble.” A practitioner must focus between the mind and the body, listening to the counsel of each, but letting the intelligence and the soul make the true decision, for this is where real will power and real dedication are found.
Success will come to the person who practices. Long uninterrupted practice of asana and pranayama, done with awareness, makes the foundation firm and brings success. Water your asana and pranayama practice with love and joy, seeing the small progress. Like a gardener plants an apple seed, waters the seed, watches each day, and feels happy seeing the growth. Patience allied with disciplined practice brings the required willpower to continue.
Light comes to a person who extends his awareness a little more than seems possible. You therefor have to ask yourself, using your intelligence and your willpower, can I do a little better than I am doing? The moment one goes a little more than the body wants to take, one is nearer to the Self. The moment one says, “I am satisfied,” the light of awareness and attention is fading out. That means stagnation has come, and the end of your learning is reached. The window of the intelligence has been closed.
Do not allow past experiences to be imprinted in your mind. Perform asanas each time with a fresh mind and with a fresh approach. If you are repeating what you did before, you are living in the past. Meaning you don’t want to proceed beyond the experience of the past. Therefor, ask yourself, “Is there anything new from what I did yesterday?” or “What more can i do than what I was doing yesterday?”, then room is created for progress.
Over time the intensity with which one can practice develops. Yoga identifies four levels of intensity of practice which relates to the twin aspects of exertion (effort, tapas) and penetration. Exertion, or our effort through practice, generates the energy, which we need to penetrate to the core of our being.
The first level of intensity is one where we exert ourselves only a little, perhaps do one class a week and find reasons not to practice at home. Mild practice is not bad practice, but one has to realize that it does not pay big dividends, and in terms of penetration our awareness remains rudimentary and peripheral.
The second level of intensity can be obtained, if we increase our level of practice slightly compared to the first level. We can consider ourselves then as average practitioners, not always consistent, but nevertheless the inner structure of our body and organs will begin to reveal themselves.
The next stage of practice (or third level of intensity) is a determined and intense level of practice. Our inward gaze becomes refined, insightful, judicious and discerning. We will become aware of our thoughts flickering and how the movement of breath ruffles or calms the consciousness. Our intelligence will awaken to the point where it can see things in their true light and make a myriad of meaningful choices both in life and in practice.
The highest level (or fourth level of intensity) is characterized as a total investment of oneself in practice. It is almost unknown for anyone to be able to plunge into this level from the beginning. Probably the circumstances of life would not allow it initially, but over time the level can be reached. Our insight can now finally penetrate through all the tortuous subtleties of cunning ego, our wisdom matures and we touch the core of our being.
This scale or ladder of intensity is just here for reference purposes only, so that we can truly and honestly see where we are and how we are doing.