Abhyasa and Vairagya: The Two Pillars of Success in Yoga

Avoiding the extremes is the key to success in Yoga. “One has to be temperate in food and recreation, exercise self-restrain in work and moderate in sleep and in waking” says the Gita. Abhyasa (practice) and Vairagya (non-attachment) the two means to achieve success in Yoga also point to the balanced path towards transformative and safe yoga.

 

Yoga stands for chitta vritti nirodha or “to calm the fluctuations of the mind”. By so controlling the mind we reach our original state of unperturbed silence. This calming effect is the main objective of any yoga training. It is only when the mind is steadfast in calmness that we can tap our inner potential and realize our original state.

Chitta Vritti Nirodha

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The practical utility of chitta vritti nirodha is the pleasant sense of balance and equanimity felt within the body and mind. For such transformation to occur within, we need a careful training in Yoga. Fortunately, the ancient Yoga master Patanjali has provided us substantial sensibilities to achieve this inner transformation.

Practice & Non Attachment

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Abhyasa – practice and vairagya – nonattachment are the two basic interrelated sensibilities to remain steadfast on the path of yoga with sure success. Abhyasa means to be perfectly fixed in our effort. The effort here involves the attainment of chitta vritti nirodha. It may include continuous effort in practicing asana or pranayama or bandha or meditation towards attaining a peaceful mind. A beginner usually utilizes the body by practicing asana to reduce the fluctuations of mind.

Samskaras

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If we continue to refine our effort in yoga only through abhyasa, there is high possibility that abhyasa or practice may turn our asana into a competitive sport or exercise with the aim of attaining some static or predetermined goal.  This is because abhyasa-how so ever good it may be-will have its own impressions or samskaras which slowly collect together to make a habit. A habit is always a mechanical and unconscious process which always denies a larger part of our life experiences. Secondly, habit will create its own waves in the mind making it fluctuate. To check our practice turn robotic, and prevent our mind to fluctuate, Patanjali gives another essential tool as vairagya or nonattachment.

With nonattachment we open ourselves into the balanced attitude towards practice. When we learn not to associate much with our practice it not only helps in avoiding unnecessary waves that practice generate but also connects us to deeper intentions of contentment and happiness residing in heart. Nonattachment breaks the unconscious pattern within us to open new insights and perspectives.

Therefore, cueing students in the asana with a balanced attitude of abhyasa and vairagya helps ensure that they feel motivated in their practice while feeling free of attainment-related expectations. In other words abhyasa stimulates us to perform activity towards bringing a stable state of tranquility and vairagya withdraws us from activity to let go all abhyasa for actually experiencing the state of tranquility.

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