Yoga sutra 1.12
Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah
Many yogis consider this particular sutra to be the foundation of a lifelong practice and the key to integrating yoga with all aspects of daily living.
Dedication and dispassion (abhyasa and vairagya) may sounds like opposing instructions “hold strong” vs “let go” – but the interplay of opposites is deeply rooted in yoga. Hatha yoga developed from Sankhya, an ancient philosophy describing the dualistic nature of the universe. The word Hatha reveals this dualism: “Ha” is the solar principle of the universe, “tha” the lunar. The work yoga (from “yoj”, the source of the English word “yoke”) joins these opposites. In yoga, we reconcile seeming contradictions – in this case, practice and detachment – to create wholeness or balance.
These vrttis, or mental modifications are restrained by practice and nonattachment.
This two-pronged approach typifies a principle used by holistic health care practitioners. While appropriate treatment for the current complaint is prescribed, measures that strengthen resistance to future occurrences are also suggested. Practice is analogous to treatment, and nonattachment, to prevention. Both practice and nonattachment are necessary for success in Yoga. They are complementary approaches that help the mind become clearer, calmer, and stronger.
Practice without nonattachment can lead to a super inflated ego that relished using power to satisfy self-interest regardless of consequences. Many demons in Hindu mythology were advanced yogis who fell from the path of righteousness when they succumbed to a tragic flaw, usually a burning craving.
On the other hand, without the strength and mental clarity gained from practice, true nonattachment may never really dawn. Instead, the mind can slip into apathy. This faux nonattachment can provide a temporary haven for the fearful – a spiritual façade where they can hide in order to avoid challenges and responsibilities. When fears remain untouched, innate capacities remain undiscovered. We become Clark Kent, never knowing that Superman lies within. It is practice that mines our untapped inner resources.
The combination of practice and nonattachment leads to becoming an individual who develops his or her capacities to the fullest and who is guided by a clear, selfless mind.
When you can check the impulse to fall back into unhelpful patterns—a saggy Downward-Facing Dog or self-defeating thoughts—you are embodying the wisdom of Sutra 1:12. Simply put, you are learning to uplift, a lesson you take from the mat to the rest of your life.