I took a yoga class not too long ago in which the teacher spoke of building strength and stamina through our poses and practices. It’s not the first time I’ve heard it. I’ve even spoken to it in classes. But thinking about it after the class had ended, it dawned on me that those same two principles can be honed and applied to far more than asana and our physical endeavors.
Whether it is for our work or the interest or desire we wish to pursue, it takes a degree of strength and stamina to keep following the path and to keep doing the work.
I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and she spoke to this idea. In the book, she talks about what it is to live creatively and to do the things that inspire you and feed your spirit. It’s easy to get sidetracked in this pursuit, and she says an essential element to doing the work you love and that lights you up is deep commitment, or devoted dedication. That, although, the work is overall something we love, the path isn’t always blissful and easy. At times, it may be. But at other times, it may feel boring and uninspired or discouraging, and it is essential, particularly in those times, to keep doing the work. It is in those times that the strength and stamina that we’ve been cultivating need to come into play to keep us going.
The Sanskrit term abhyasa can be simply translated as “practice.” But, as defined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the word holds a far deeper meaning. Abhyasa is “repeated, consistent, uninterrupted practice done with devotion.” Devoted dedication. It is more than going through the motions. It is showing up regularly with a sentiment of devotion. This is the work, the practice, that builds the strength and stamina that sustains us.
Cultivating strength and stamina physically, can take us deeper into our asana practices. And, as the teachings of yoga go, what we cultivate on the mat, we are learning to take off the mat and into the many facets of our lives.