Do you remember your first yoga class? Did it take a bit of will and discipline to enroll in the class or to put down your mat? Perhaps this is why “tapas” is the first element of the Yoga of action (2.1) described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras*. Loosely translated, tapas is the willpower and discipline we all need to open the body, extend tired muscles, expand our chest, and most importantly to stay with the practice. Yet, if this effort were the only part of one’s yoga, we would burn out quickly! As we stick with tapas we must take on another aspect of yoga, to release and pause – right in the middle of the effort! As we exert our muscles and quiet our mind, the poses we seek, will only bloom if we can relax into them. It seems contradictory in many ways, how can we both be effortful and relaxed? This is the mystery itself, the complexity of yoga.
How can each of us find this “effortless” effort in our lives, and in our practice? In my own practice for example, as I reach for my toes and feel my back muscles “screaming”, the work is to listen to the voice inside my head or of my teacher to stretch my limbs to their full potential, while also recognizing that it is at this point that I must let go. As I learn to observe the sensations and identify the moment where I just need to exhale, I become the pose inside and out. For Yoga itself is not only about the external beauty or aesthetics of the pose, but also it is the subtle internal process of recognizing that now is the moment to accept, relax and yet maintain the effort moving forward. It does not mean that I stop my effort, rather, like a waterfall, effort washes over me and takes my pose to a point beyond the physical picture, and to a beautiful place that exists within me and yet beyond me. That elusive state might last a second or less, but it is a very potent moment as it brings illumination that can last for a lifetime. That small moment provides me with the faith I need to come back to my mat over and over again! It is then; at that moment that I am learning what effortless effort means, that I accept the sweat needed to integrate the pose into myself.
Do not despair that you don’t have the willpower or the effort this takes. We are not talking Herculean struggle, achieved only by luminaries; every one of us, working skillfully to their own edge, can learn to relax into that effort. We can each move toward sensing how this practice brings us closer to the infinite, the quiet within. The gift that this practice offers emerges when we relax into it. We need effort, observation and skillful actions no question about it, yet we also need to recognize that all this effort without a relaxing breath, will not let us experience all that yoga can offer.
Learning to catch this elusive state comes with practice. Some of us might have experienced uplifting feelings of grace in a pose. A month ago a very excited student texted me that she had had a moment just like that, she had the feeling of complete alignment of her spine, unmitigated integration in her head stand. She felt immense joy washing over her and needed to share it. I have had a few of those moments in my 20 plus years of practice. During a backbend workshop many years ago after hours of “donkey work”, muscles screaming suddenly out of nowhere, as I ascended for my last upward bow/wheel position, my heart opened, my head quieted, and for a glorious moment I was the pose and I experienced a glimpse of grace. We all recall these precious moments, and not only during asana practices. When a newborn opens her eyes for the first time and her gaze latches on yours, you know that you are just witnessing the mystery of life. Yoga practice provides us with the arena to practice so that when a moment of grace comes your way, on the mat or off the mat, you will just grab it and be thankful forever.
*2.1. “Accepting pain as help for purification, study and surrender to the Supreme being constitute yoga in practice.
Source: Inside the Yoga Sutras: A Comprehensive Sourcebook for the Study & Practice of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras by Jaganath Carrera
Artemis Yoga is committed to enable individuals with disabilities to participate as fully as possible in classes at our yoga studio. On the first level there is a wheelchair accessible entrance, yoga class studio and bathroom.
All classes on the first floor are wheelchair accessible in our flagship, primary studio. The lower level studio is reached by two stairways. In the event that a class in the lower level is not accessible to a participant, the studio owner or manager on-premise will adjust that class location to the first floor, grade level studio. With reasonable notice, this change will readily be made as an accommodation.
The request can be made in person, via email or telephone and advance notice of the request to the studio is appreciated. Artemis Yoga will make an earnest effort and attempt to provide reasonable accommodation pending timely notice by participants needing such accommodations.
Artemis Yoga will also work with the individual to ensure that participation in class is achievable. This may include providing additional props, chairs or hands-on assistance that the teacher is able to deliver while continuing to teach the class to all participants.
If you have any questions regarding this policy, please reach out directly to the studio owner, Liz Padula.
Artemis Yoga offers “live” online yoga classes through Zoom. To join, find an inviting space to practice and follow the steps below:
Step 1: Use your MINDBODY account with Artemis Yoga to register for the class.
Step 2: Log into https://zoom.us/join and enter the Class-Specific Meeting ID then click “Join”.
Step 3: Once you click on the Meeting ID, register with your name and email in Zoom. Please use your real name so we can match with Mindbody. You will then be entered in the “Waiting Room.”
Step 4: When let in from the waiting room, click “Join with Computer Audio.”
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ONLINE FOR CLASS!