Today I stepped back on the mat after almost a week and a half. After a week of tonsillitis (practising with fever is definitely not advised!) and then my cycle I couldn’t wait to “begin again.”
All this week students have been returning from summer travels, where perhaps the break from practice was a tad longer. Quite often the feeling of starting again can be mixture excitement, nerves, and dread!
At these times we can look to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for some great advice. In chapter one, sutra 12 Patanjali says practice should be approached with a combination of consistent effort yet detachment to the results. I like to remember this as the “never give up, always let go” combo.
It can certainly take quite a bit of effort and willpower to get back on the mat after a period of absence. The body may have got used the holiday sleep-ins and holiday treats. The mind then does its thing telling you all sorts of stories about how you’ve gone backward, how difficult it will be blah blah blah!
If you’ve managed to shake off the “tamas” inertia that can come when we fall out of our regular practice routine and make it back onto the mat, then this is the stage to apply vairagya, detachment. Have absolutely no expectations for how the practice will go. Let go of any desires for how you want the practice to make you feel. Simply move, breath, be present and allow things to unfold. It’s only when we drop our attachment to a particular outcome that the state of yoga can arise.
So really this is not just advice for returning from an absence. This is advice for every day. Walking the tightrope of applying effort and at the same time letting go, is one of the biggest challenges we’ll face in our yoga practice and indeed life. But when that balance is found…well, that’s just pure bliss.