What makes a true Yoga practice?

Yoga Sutra of the month

Samadhi Pada



(the restriction (of the fluctuations of the mind) is achieved through practice and dispassion.

This Sutra is, in my opinion, one of the most important ones to remember for any serious Yogi – and one that is easily forgotten.

Abhyasa (practice) – is the more obvious part. If we want to achieve a steady and clear mind (which after all is the main goal of Yoga) and harvest the fruit of our efforts, we must first put in the work. We cannot be lazy and think “tomorrow I will practice” or only practice what comes easy to us. If we do so, even though all practice will bring results, the results will be very limited.

What shape or form the practice takes can be personal. For some it can be based around a seated meditation, for some it can be chanting, a strong posture practice in the Ashtanga tradition or any other devotional practice, as long as it is practiced with dispassion.

The second part of this sutra, Vairagya (dispassion) is what makes the practice a truly yogic practice. It is also the part that is easily forgotten, especially in our posture practice, when we strive to achieve. We want, so badly, to reach our toes in Paschimottanasana, to bind in Marichyasana, to stand on our head without wall support, that we fall into the trap of delusion all over again – the delusion that achieving a certain shape with our body is Yoga. In class, we may think in our mind of the postures that are still to come, of the time still left in class, of the person next to us who we somehow think of as a “better Yogi” than us because their head touches the ground in Prasarita Padotanasana.

But this is a dangerous trap that can keep us from practicing Yoga.

To practice dispassion means to practice letting go of any attachment to the outcome of our practice. It means practicing with complete faith in the practice. It means being completely in the moment. Letting go of the wishes and demands of our egoic mind and actually transcending the Ego little by little until we feel just one with our bodies and minds and our practice.

Even the ultimate goal of Yoga – complete self realisation – is a goal and while it is a commendable goal, it is better to let go even of this. The only true yogic practice is done as a mindful and meditative practice of being in the moment, giving our effort to the practice without wanting anything in return.

Abhyasa and Vairagya are two sides of the same coin of yogic practice. Only when the two come together can a state of yoga be experienced. One side only does not work – Practice alone, without dispassion, is no more than exercise, or gymnastics. Dispassion without practice is nothing but  lethargy. 

But both together is what makes a true Yoga practice.

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