It is Sunday evening. I am exhausted.
Each weekend of our training has a theme, and this weekend’s theme was inversions. For the uninitiated, that means poses that are upside-down: handstand, headstand, forearm stand, shoulder stand. Not only did we practice these effortful and energetic poses, but we practiced for three hours both Saturday and Sunday. That’s six hours of yoga in two days! Like I said… exhausted.
As part of our training, we are learning about yoga philosophy and how certain ways of thinking about the physical asana practice can relate to our lives “off the mat” as well. We talked about one concept in particular this weekend that I think really applied to inversions: “practice dispassion.”
Dispassion is not indifference
What does it mean to practice dispassion? What does “practice” even mean? In yoga, practice is simply steadfast effort toward quieting the mind. I find that pretty comforting. Just the effort is enough; it’s not about the result, metrics, value creation, bottom line, or any of those other business-y terms that we find cropping up in all aspects of life. Practicing dispassion means not attaching to your results. Let’s say you’re working on handstand but having trouble getting up into the pose. You try to kick up several times, and when the teacher says it’s time to move on to the next pose, you still haven’t made it up. You could justify it every which way (I’m strong enough but it’s just a mental block, or, if I could only do such-and-such, or, if I had just tried a bit harder…) and agonize over the fact that the pose didn’t happen the way you had hoped. Detaching from the result means that you don’t continue thinking about it and replaying it in your mind over and over. You accept it and move on. The same goes for the opposite scenario: you feel strong and confident in your handstand, and you fly up into the pose with no problems. Instead of congratulating yourself or comparing your pose to others, you accept it and move on. It’s kind of a relief, really, to be able to let go of some of the constant analyzing and questioning and agonizing that it’s easy to spiral down into.
This is not the same as not caring or trying; it is not indifference. Ultimately, the physical asana practice is a means of using the body as a tool to meditate and quiet the mind.
Right now, though, I am going to make my mind very quiet by getting some sleep!