Effort + Ease
In studying and practicing yoga, we start to become aware of the dualities or polarities we experience not only in our practice but in our lives. Everything has a dual action, a push and a pull that inspires change and movement. Yoga prompts us to find the balance between.
In asana we are asked to put forth effort by finding and sustaining the asana as well as ease in maintaining calm, steady breath and relaxation amongst the effort. In meditation we place our effort on focusing the mind and then letting go of the efforts of that focus and so on. This practice of finding effort and ease or doing while allowing employs the concept of abhyasa and vairagya.
Abhyasa is making your best effort to focus all the vritti on a single point (an action, object or image). It’s a practice and like any practice becomes more effective given more time, dedication and sincerity (not just going through the motions).
Vairagya is the ability to let go of the desired outcome or the fruits of effort to focus the mind. It’s taking action without attachment.
When practiced together, your mind remains in a state of balance between doing and allowing and we can exist in the world without getting wrapped up in attachments. The mind becomes sattvic, transcending the movement of the gunas.
The gunas are cosmic energies that permeate all of nature, including the human mind. All activity in nature is an expression of the gunas and their ever-changing rhythms. In humans, these changes are our ups and downs, mood swings and changing patterns minute to minute and through the course of our lives. The practice of yoga brings awareness to the gunas and facilitates our freedom from them.
Rajas: energy of activity and change
Tamas: inertia, lack of movement, dullness
Sattva: balance, clarity and light. Balance between rajas and tamas
The yoga sutra (1.12-1.16 above) give us insight on how to balance the mind using abhyasa and vairagya and transcend the gunas so we can live from a place of both doing and allowing. This is the state of samadhi – oneness, unity, and ultimately yoga.
Prompts for Self Inquiry
- Examine your daily life. What role do the gunas play?
- Overall, which guna do you identify as being more prevalent in your life?
- Where might you employ more effort? And more ease?