Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:48- In asana, there is no assault from the pairs of opposites.
Defining the Sutra
During asana, the Yogi is neutral.
Modern Day Application
Yogis don’t have good and bad practice days. They just have practice days. They don’t define themselves by their poses. They don’t get upset if they cannot bind that day. They don’t get angry if they do not get the next pose. They do not get impatient if they are stopped on Marichyasana for 4 years.
First, the practitioner establishes a steady and comfortable asana (Sutra 2:46). This takes time. It is not expected to be automatic. Once the yogi is able to establish a steady and comfortable asana, they take their attention to the infinite nature of consciousness (Sutra 2:47). Once the yogi is steady and comfortable and can meditate on the infinite, Patanjali says he has mastered the asana. Once the Asana is mastered, the yogi is no longer assaulted by pairs of opposites. Sounds reasonable. I am not saying I can do it, but the steps make sense.
Why It is Important
Our yoga practice is a gateway to a calm still mind. If we constantly refer to our practices as bad and good, frustrating and awesome, strong and weak, we perpetuate the roller coaster ride that is uncontrolled thoughts and emotions.
Being neutral does not mean not having any feelings. You can love your practice and practice neutrality and non attachment.
It’s understandable to hear “non-attachment” as “avoidance” and “lightness” as “unengaged.” But this is to misunderstand the real nature of good love, and loving with care.
Love means engagement — without clinging. It means care — with release.
There is danger in “loving too hard.”
Sometimes children make this mistake with small animals. They “love” them so much that, in their rapture over holding or “hugging” them, they inadvertently crush or suffocate them.
It’s a dark and painful realization, but illustrates the very real dangers of mis-channeling love beyond “care.” Of loving too hard. Of holding too tightly.
We’d like to think this heartbreaking mistake is specific to children, but it’s not. Adults make this mistake — albeit emotionally — all the time.
Love is always a loose hold, never a tight one.
In Buddhism there’s a term, upadana, which means ‘clinging,’ or ‘taking something up,’ as in picking up an object. Upadana is encountering something and then wanting to hold on at all costs. By clinging, we initiate suffering—if we don’t get the object of desire, we suffer; if we do get the object of desire, it will ultimately change or fade away, and we suffer.
We want to defend ourselves against threats to our desire, physical and psychological, and so we cling more tightly. But the tighter we cling, the more desperate our expectations of the impossible.
We already know how to love lightly.
Imagine how we watch sunsets. We fully appreciate and indulge in their beauty without desperation for them to suspend themselves in space and time for us. We let them fade away, and we’re okay.
Can we love our yoga poses the same way we love sunsets? When we watch a sunset, we arrive at the perfect time and the perfect place. We sit in stillness. Silently watching. Silently observing. When it is over, we get up and go home. The silent watcher is inside of all of us. Through this connection, we can cease to be assaulted by the play of opposites. We can cease to create suffering. We can be free.
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.