Wis­dom on how to in­cor­po­rate de­tach ment into your prac­tice and your life.

Yoga Journal - - Contents - As in­ter­preted by Ty Lan­drum

“Dis­pas­sion, when per­fected, is con­scious mas­tery of de­sire for things seen and un­seen.” SU­TRA 1.15 | BASED ON A TRANS­LA­TION BY I. K. TAIMNI

IN THE YOGA SU­TRA,

Patan­jali names ab­hyasa (prac­tice) and vairagya (dis­pas­sion) as the two es­sen­tial el­e­ments of yoga. And in Su­tra 1.15, he dives more specif­i­cally into what “dis­pas­sion” ac­tu­ally means. Dis­pas­sion, he says, is “con­scious mas­tery of de­sire.”

In tra­di­tional yo­gic as­ceti­cism, “con­scious mas­tery of de­sire” is the abil­ity to with­stand urges and im­pulses, no mat­ter how strong they might be. For as­cetics, the pur­pose of vairagya is to re­al­ize a kind of

In­stead of al­low­ing im­pulses to dis­turb us or dis­tract us into fan­tasy, we can hold them in per­spec­tive and see them for what they are: ephemeral for­ma­tions of prana, the un­der­ly­ing en­er­getic force that sus­tains us. When de­sires arise dur­ing asana, we can opt to breathe into them.

au­ton­omy by sev­er­ing all at­tach­ments to the body—not ex­actly a com­pelling goal for a mod­ern yoga prac­ti­tioner.

When this su­tra is viewed through the lens of later Tantric phi­los­o­phy, “con­scious mas­tery of de­sire” is no longer the abil­ity to with­stand de­sire, but in­stead to re­lease the an­i­mat­ing force of de­sire from its ob­ject so we can ex­pe­ri­ence that force as pure cre­ativ­ity. In this view, the pur­pose of vairagya is not to sep­a­rate our­selves from our bod­ies, but in­stead to cul­ti­vate a deeper in­ti­macy with them by tap­ping into in­nate cre­ative forces.

Asana prac­tice is an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice this more-en­gag­ing, less-re­pres­sive Tantric form of vairagya. As we move and breathe through the pos­tures, we arouse prim­i­tive im­pulses of all kinds. But if we re­main fo­cused on the steady flow of our breath, we can re­main grounded in our bod­ies. In­stead of al­low­ing im­pulses to dis­turb us or dis­tract us into fan­tasy, we can hold them in per­spec­tive and see them for what they are: ephemeral for­ma­tions of prana, the un­der­ly­ing en­er­getic force that sus­tains us.

When de­sires arise dur­ing our asana prac­tice, we can opt to breathe into them and to watch in won­der as the sol­vent of the breath dis­solves de­sires into the open space of con­scious­ness. When de­sire dis­solves, it re­leases its cre­ative and mo­ti­vat­ing force, and we ex­pe­ri­ence that re­lease as a cathar­tic wave, usu­ally ac­com­pa­nied by feel­ings of ex­ul­ta­tion. For the force be­hind our de­sires—the force that draws us to­ward par­tic­u­lar ob­jects and peo­ple and places— is love. And when love is re­leased from de­sire, we ex­pe­ri­ence it as some­thing self­less and bliss­ful. Revel in that ex­pe­ri­ence and con­tin­u­ously cul­ti­vate it through the ab­hyasa (prac­tice) of vairagya.

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