practice/training on those off days

you can’t have a great day every day. though sometimes we try to pretend everything is copacetic, in reality sometimes we’re just…off. and there can be tons of reasons, or absolutely no reason at all.

for those of us who have a daily yoga practice, or a daily anything practice, we come face-to-face with this on a regular basis. we, and everything around us, are in constant flux, no two days are alike, no two moments are the same. coming to terms with this reality is one of the hardest challenges as we continue to work in our chosen discipline. in fact, sometimes it’s why we have chosen our discipline in the first place. because there’s nothing like doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again to help the mind focus. which is just the first step.

this weekend both my parkour training and my yoga practice were… just…not…you see…it just wasn’t…ok…ugh…they were total crap! complete and utter shite! i hadn’t eaten properly, i’m coming to terms with my retrenchment, i’ve had to sell my beloved 4×4, transfer funds, get a new car, it’s full moon, my balance is off, my hormones are out of whack, i worry about my future, i obsess about my past. i love this person, i hate that person, my dogs are driving me crazy! am i going to survive? blah, blah, blah.

my yoga practice and now my parkour training are a blissful refuge from these sorts of monkey-mind games. but sometimes every movement is an effort, the mind resists slipping into the zone, and the body protests or just screeches to a halt. and this is where the true practice begins. because you still…get on…your mat…and practice.

pratyahara means ‘withdrawal of the senses’ and is the 5th limb of ashtanga yoga. it is the place where the vision narrows and senses turn inward. you don’t hear the cars on the road outside, notice the person breathing next to you, or your own body complaining. the mind detaches and floats away. in my yoga practice it is where the breath steadies and the body flows through each posture with minimal physical effort and no mental judgement. it’s why runners run, hikers hike, swimmers swim. and in parkour it’s that point where it’s just you and the obstacle: gauge, approach, move through, repeat. you no longer hear everyone’s 2 cents worth, feel pats on the back, or see anyone nearby. it’s complete absorption in the present moment and the opportunity it holds for you alone; it’s where the actual work is done.

time passes, moments, minutes, hours. you haven’t been thinking about the obstacle, or the trick, or the yoga pose for awhile now. you have the startling realization that the work wasn’t about all that anyway. maybe you’ve improved, maybe you haven’t, it doesn’t really matter anymore. because the real goal in one’s practice, eventually, is detachment. work or acts with no attachment to the outcome lead to a blissful, peaceful state (seriously, they do). i practice because this ‘work’ helps me detach from all the other stuff i worry about: job, car, home, social interactions, even my yoga practice itself. i near presence in the present moment, my true state, the state of bliss. the bhagavad gita puts it best…

“You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working. Never give way to laziness, either.

“Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits. Be even-tempered in success and failure; for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by yoga.

“Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender. Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahman. They who work selfishly for results are miserable.”

i like the self-surrender bit. and if i swap ‘Supreme Lord’ and ‘Brahman’ for ‘higher self’ that makes more sense to me. anyway, that sort of says it all. i’m quite chuffed with myself that i actually remembered that passage from the Gita and was able to find it (unfortunately not a reference to the chapter/verse though). my work here is done.

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