Mindfulness

Abhyasa: Commit Yourself to Love

Patanjali suggests overcoming the obstacles of life by simply going on while concentrating on one principle (eka tattva abhyasa), which in yoga can be any form of meditation.  Yoga teacher Gilda Giannoni shows an asana sequence that can help us to develop the required qualities for a higher manifestation of love.

To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts deadBertrand Russell

Yoga is a spiritual path – it has to do with the inner growth of the individual. There is no yogic text that will teach us how to love a partner, how to nourish a marriage, to cultivate fidelity or to overcome a betrayal. Nevertheless, as we go forward on the yoga path, we realize how going deeper into yourself means at the same time being more keen to move toward others: ‘If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?’ (Hillel, Pirke Avot, I.14). This sentence in the Talmud, from the Jewish tradition, explains perfectly the spiritual path of the Illuminated. The first step for your self-realization is to work hard on yourself – no one else will do it for you. But when you have investigated everything about yourself, when you have understood your karma, your dharma (your role in this life), and how to liberate yourself from the former and how to express the latter, then what? What is the meaning of your life then? What is your dharma for? How can you express your dharma if not in relation to others? And if not in this life, when?

We live in a narcissistic society. We tend to cultivate individualism and at the same time a utopian idea of perfect love, that doesn’t allow us to actually develop real love. When the strong feeling of falling in love begins to fade and the first difficulties related to two individuals trying to connect arise, many people give up. Of course we don’t have to stay with someone we don’t love or who doesn’t love us, but we also shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that when love comes, it will easily overcome every difficulty all by itself. Love will actually overcome, but only with our effort, our will and intention. Love itself is the mystery, the path and the goal – just like yoga. And just like yoga, it enriches us with extra energy and fills us with optimism and a new, positive perspective on life. Through yoga we get in touch with the mystery of our own existence; through real love we get in touch with the mystery of another human being. Both yoga and love show us the divine mystery of life.

Along this path, lots of obstacles may arise. In Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra these obstacles are called antaraya. Dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness and instability are examples. Since they’re natural obstacles along this path, Patanjali suggests overcoming them by simply going on while concentrating on one principle (eka tattva abhyasa), which in yoga can be any form of meditation. What specifically matters is abhyasa, exercise: ‘Abhyasa is the effort in remaining there; it becomes firm when practiced with sincerity and respect for a long period of time without any interruption’ (P.Y.S., I.13-14). This is valid for meditation, the journey along a spiritual path, and for love as well. Devotion, sincerity and respect together with patience and perseverance are key ingredients for keeping a good relationship alive. Much as practice is the key to reaching a higher level in yoga, so is applying abhyasa to worthy relationships the way to reach a higher level of love – a love that is not egoistical, that is not limited to sexual attraction and personal needs.

An asana sequence can help us to develop the required qualities for this higher love:

Paschimottana

Paschimottana

  • Pashcimottana-asana, west pose. This asana represents the sunset of ego. You need to be able to surrender, because to give more space to the love inside of you, you have to take away space from your ego. Give up, get rid of every resistance, don’t look for anything, don’t think about reaching the feet or stretching as much as you can, but just relax and surrender.

Vrksasana

  • Vrksh-asana, tree pose. The tree symbolizes the fulfillment of the process of personal growth. When you know who you are, you know what you want and what you can give to others. Instead of suffering by adopting an attitude imposed by society or your parents expectations, you can finally be sincere with yourself, and thus with your partner.

Virabhadra III

  • Virabhadra-asana III, warrior pose III. Be perseverant. You will need continuous concentration to maintain the balance. Take courage and go further, with your body parallel to the ground, but pay attention not to lose your alignment.

Malasana

  • Mala-asana, garland pose. This pose is the symbol of patience. Eastern people crouch like this when they have to wait for something. It’s a closed and introspective posture, but it contains the possibility of action.
  • Japa, repetition of a mantra. Relax in a comfortable meditative position. Breathe slowly. Let your mind calm down. Start associating your breathing with the words *I trust*. Go on for at least 10 minutes. Repeat it aloud while breathing out, then move your lips without emitting sound and finally repeat it only mentally. Notice the effects of this mantra on your emotions. No love can grow without trust.

To be able to truly move toward another person implies that we have somehow fulfilled our research into our own selves, through what in yoga is called the chakra-bedhana, the opening of the main chakras. When a yogi has reached the fifth, the vishuddha, he’s able to express himself and all his potentialities in this life, so that the way to the sixth, the ajna-chakra, opens. Here our kundalini encounters our conscience in a spiritual marriage. Here masculine and feminine principles are finally in harmony. Here we are ready to dedicate ourselves to one another. This is the highest development of self-realization, what Jung used to call the climax of the individuation process. Beyond this, at the seventh chakra, there’s only a leap into nothingness, into the Universe, which is pure divine love.

About the author: Gilda Giannoni has been practising yoga since 1992 and teaching since 1999. She founded her school YogaMarga in Verona in 2005 and since then she has been involved in several Teacher Training Courses, conferences and seminars in Verona and other cities in Italy. She holds a degree in Philosophy (Pisa University, Italy), several certifications as a Yoga Teacher (Italy and India) and a post-graduate degree in Yoga Therapy (S-Vyasa Yoga University, Bangalore, India). She has written articles for an Italian yoga journal and her book, Yoga, dall’Armonia alla Gioia, was published in 2012. 

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