The two-hour practice

On the wildflowers I talked about yesterday. I took some pictures today and put them in yesterday’s post. Check them out if you like.

As for today…

I got to my mat in a casual mood – it was Saturday and I had no pressing engagements. So I decided I wasn’t going to count my Suns. I was just going to do as many as I wanted – which was more than 5 each. So I that’s what I did. The upshot of this was that a practice that started at 7 ended at 9. It wasn’t just the Suns either. I really dawdled through practice – holding some asana’s for 10 breaths here, stopping to work a bit more on an asana there. It was a casual practice…but not a bad or ill-disciplined one.

The main problem I have with my practice is focus (or more accurately, the lack thereof). My mind is all over the place. It seems to be getting better. Now at least, I’m aware that I’m wandering whereas before I just spent the whole 90 minutes rummaging through my subconscious paraphenalia without realizing it until I lifted my head up from Savasana. Now I realise it every five minutes or so and re-focus. Any ideas? Chants? Some meditation?

Anyway, Saturday practices aren’t usually so casual. We’re generally in the habit of staying up a bit Friday nights reading, watching a movie, catching up with each other. So a late night turns into a late morning which is an isssue from August to May when the English Football season is in swing. A 3:00 pm BST kickoff time implies a 10:00 am EST start. I’m in trouble if Arsenal (my team) are playing a noon kickoff because that means the asanas need to get done by 7:00 am. Fortunately it shouldn’t be much of an issue anymore as I’ve kicked the late night habit – we’re in bed no later that midnight these days and usually a lot earlier on weekdays.

But speaking of renouncing habits. Iyengar in his excellent commentary to The Yoga Sutras says that there are two wings that carry the progressing seer: Practice and Renunciation. I’ve made renunciation a cornerstone of my yoga off the mat and look to give up things that I know are of no value to my well-being and I feel are impeding my spiritual progress. I’ve been a vegetarian for about a decade now. That’s a pretty significant renunciation – but one that many of us have made – much to our benefit. But since then I haven’t taken stock and looked for a new target…until this year.

In December I mounted a new assault on attachment – I gave up tea and coffee – I haven’t had a cup of either this year. At first it was brutal. I used to drink a litre a day. In recent years though, I’d taken it down to one in the morning. But I took it seriously. The first couple of weeks of cold turkey were brutal – the withdrawal headaches lasted about 10 days. That in itself made me realise I had to carry through – anything that causes that kind of chemical withdrawal pain can’t be good. In the yogic tradition tea and coffee are considered Rajasic. According to the Sivananda Companion to Yoga “Too much rajasic food will over-stimulate the body and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable”. Of course that’s the very point. Anyway, I decided to get it rid of it. There was no longer any value proposition in it for me. It was a drug and I had come to enjoy the taste – I needed it because I did sleep enough…and I didn’t sleep enough because I knew I had caffeine for a crutch to sustain me. How’s that for a vicious cycle? So I quit. Now I just try to get enough sleep. And if I don’t get enough sleep I let myself get tired and feel tired. That is, I let my body tell me it’s time to rest. And then I rest.

Maybe next year I’ll go back to enjoying a cup now and then. I don’t know. But I don’t miss it. And I wonder sometimes why I had to drink it every day…and how pointless it was. I don’t feel as though taking it out has left any kind of hole in my fulfillment. Now…what else do I give up? Beer? Now that is a big big ask.

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