Is Your Practice Interrupted?

The degree to which we can be completely present, moment to moment, is the degree to which we will rid ourselves of ignorance and be in touch with the truth.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali II.26

In I. K. Taimni’s book, The Science of Yoga, he translates Sutra II.26, which reads “Viveka khyatir aviplava hanopayah”, as “The uninterrupted practice of the awareness of the Real is the means of dispersion of Avidya”.  Viveka, meaning awareness of the Real.  Avidya, meaning ignorance.

A few years ago, while I was studying with BKS Iyengar, he referenced Sutra II.26.  He pointed out how there were interruptions in my body, interruptions in the flow of my breath, interruptions in the flow of my awareness.  And so I began to observe the interruptions and work with that in my yoga practice.

Having been drawn to the word “uninterrupted” from Taimni’s translation and from Guruji’s teaching, I find that it is applicable on all the different levels of our yoga and our practice.  When we weave a particular sutra into our practice, it gives us a different perspective on the nature and direction of our practice. It takes us to a more subtle, internal awareness.

In asana, I look at the geometric lines of the body to see where they are interrupted.  I observe the breath and see where it is interrupted.  I look at the flow of energy in the body and see where it is interrupted. Where the energy flows, or doesn’t, is a way to see where the awareness is, or is not.

My classes are structured so that students sit before and after class.  At those times, I try to direct the students’ attention to various physical points in the body so that they can develop the ability to first concentrate (Dharana), then concentrate in an uninterrupted fashion (Dhyana).

In asana, I also see whether the student can maintain awareness of one action while beginning another.  Can they apply it in their practice? Is the lift of their kneecaps maintained in straight-legged Standing Poses?  This will require them to focus, and direct them toward uninterrupted awareness in their practiceAlso, by repeating a point or two throughout the performance of an asana, I try to help the student to maintain an uninterrupted state of awareness with regard to that point. For instance, can a student maintain the pressure of pushing the outer back heel into the floor in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) while coming into and out of the pose?

The benefit that you receive by practicing without interruption in your practice, is that you learn to direct your attention so that it is not scattered.  This helps you to direct your energy so that you accomplish things much more effectively, whether it is in your yoga practice or in any other part of life.

As the beginner student matures and grows into a more experienced student, s/he learns to directattention to various aspects of practice and develops the ability to maintain an uninterrupted flow of attention.

An experienced student can maintain a state of receptive awareness rather than directed attention.  Receptive awareness is a quieter, more expansive state that is developed through uninterrupted, consistent practice.  The body and mind have to be prepared through directed attention first, (which occurs at the beginner phase), then comes cultivation of the receptive state (which comes into focus for the more experienced practitioner).

When we are more receptive, we come closer to being completely present to each moment as Sutra II.26 states.  Having said that, at the most basic level we still have to learn to pay attention before we can reach a state of receptivity.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are an important part of my practice.  I think studying the sutras will enhance anyone’s practice.  The Sutras encourageus to contemplate our practice on a number of different levels and in a manner that we might not contemplate without encountering the Sutras.

Ultimately, uninterruptedness goes to the issue of consistency.  Sutra I.14 states that the practice itself should be uninterrupted.   To know Yoga, one needs to practice consistently without interruption for a long time. Whatever aspect of your practice you want to consider, consistency and uninterruptedness are core elements.

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Yours in Yoga,