Can Virtual Yoga Renew My Vinyasa Practice? A Glance at Abhyasa

 Can Virtual Yoga Renew My Vinyasa Practice? A Glance at Abhyasa

We received an email from a student named Jen today who asked, "Can virtual yoga renew my vinyasa practice?"  Jen went on to say, "my vinyasa practice sustained me for the past twenty years and since the covid pandemic began, my yoga studio closed and my vinyasa practice has suffered."  Jen is interested in our virtual yoga studio membership.  Jen is already a student in our Yoga Alliance registered Online 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training program and is interested in joining others in practice from the comfort of her own home but wonders if that will rejuvenate her practice in the way she needs.

Can Virtual Yoga Renew Your Practice?

Yes, virtual yoga can absolutely renew your yoga practice.  Many yoga practitioners were left without studios to practice in when the global coronavirus pandemic swept across the world.  Our students in all countries were faced with the same dilemma and everyone turned to the mat for solace.  Dedication to yoga practice, or abhyasa, has pulled many people through the isolation, loneliness and fear of the pandemic.  

What is Abhyasa?

Personally, my vinyasa practice began almost thirty years ago.  I found yoga by accident and like so many others, I was immediately hooked.  I needed that "yoga high" on a daily basis and this is the feeling that drove me to my mat day after day.  I loved being absorbed in the flow and my vinyasa practice developed quickly.  For about the first year, I was solely practicing asana, but I was deeply interested in all the philosophy trinkets my teachers dripped out during asana practice.  

Eventually my interest in yoga philosophy grew into hunger and I began to immerse myself into the study of this sacred ancient practice.  I read all the recommended books.  The Sutras was a special book and I took two years to finish it because I would read one Sutra and absorb it into my being before turning the page to the next.  I studied the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.  I then dove into the Upanishads and eventually read the Bhagavad Gita.  Next on my list were Gheranda Samhita and Shiva Samhita.  It was when I was reading BKS Iyengar's Light on Yoga that I finally decided to take my first 200-hour yoga teacher training.  

Throughout my studies, this concept of Abhyasa, kept coming up.  In the Gita, Krishna talks about us forming a habit and training our mind around practice.  In the Sutras, we learn in Sutra 1.12 that we must have persistent effort, or Abhyasa and also Vairagya, or non-attachment.  It is the combination of Abhyasa and Vairagya that helps us to navigate all of life's twists and turns.  Abhyasa tells us to stay committed to our practice, show up and do the work.  Vairagya tells us to practice without expectation and to release ourselves from any attachments from the work we do when we show up.

Where You Practice Yoga Is Not Important

It isn't where you practice yoga that matters, it's that you practice.  We have all experienced mat resistance from time to time.  It's easy to fall into a slump and work against yourself, making choices that don't align with your greater goals.  In times like these, we rely on our tapas, or discipline.  Tapas are one of our Niyamas, laid out in the eight-limb path of yoga.  Our Niyamas are our personal observances or guidelines laid out in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  The third Niyama is tapas which is all about austerity, or having the self-discipline to show up for practice so that we can melt away the impurities that are forming in our bodies, minds and spirits. 

If you are asking how can your yoga renew itself when your practice gets stale, it can be helpful to remind yourself that what makes your practice magical is you.  The wonderment that comes from yoga is created by the practitioner, not the environment.  Beautiful studio spaces and inspirational teachers are always helpful, but ultimately it's your own dedication to practice, Abhyasa, that changes you.  Yoga practice transforms us so that the person who walks off the mat is better than the person who stepped on the mat.  We become higher and more informed versions of ourselves, establishing deeper connections to the Universe, ourselves and others through practice.

My vinyasa practice has carried on in dark places, scary times, indoors, outdoors and even noisy conditions.  I've rolled my mat out in tiny hotel rooms on family vacations to squeeze in some sun salutations.  My practice has held me through grief, fear and sadness.  My vinyasa practice has been a place of victory and celebration during joyful times.  Once I've connected my movement to my breath, it doesn't matter where I am.  I start to realize I'm no longer doing yoga, and it's like my yoga is doing me.  This normally happens when I release myself from any attachment and find Vairagya.

Virtual Yoga and Vairagya

Attachment on the mat is a big issue.  We can be attached to so many things off the mat, and they follow us on to our mats.  Sometimes people are attached to their image and they want to post pictures in front of beautiful studio spaces.  Sometimes people enjoy practicing yoga with others, enjoying a sense of Sangha or community.  Other times, attachment can be more personal and more directly related to practice.  We want to look like the shape in the picture we just saw.  We may want our bodies to contort into positions even if it causes us pain.

Virtual yoga can be very helpful in assisting us with Abhyasa and Vairagya.  We get to practice from the comfort of our own homes, without fighting traffic and spending time and money traveling to other spaces.  We can more easily commit to practice because there are fewer barriers.  With less distractions, we are able to release some of that attachment and find the mystical mixture of Abhyasa and Vairagya described in Yoga Sutra 1.12.  There are no words that truly describe the freedom felt when attachments are released and the comfort experienced from dedication to practice.

In our community, we've also learned that Sangha is experienced very deeply through virtual yoga.  We see the same faces when we log on to practice and we all grow together.  During the pandemic, it was quite comforting to talk with others across the globe and hear how the world looks from many perspectives.  This sense of community was helpful in establishing practice and growing, both on and off the mat.  

If you're asking, "can virtual yoga renew my vinyasa practice?", please join us in our virtual studio!  The first month is free and you can cancel anytime.  We offer live classes 7 days a week and have a full video library of classes to choose from 24/7.


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