Detached From Your Practice

in Apr 16, 2024

So, I have been looking at detachment and more importantly looking at what I can and can not detach from. What I have and have not detached from. Detachment – that famous yogic chestnut. I’m not going to go over the most obvious things that we need to learn to detach ourselves from, like wealth, material objects, designer clothes: I want to focus on one thing…my own practice.

When I first heard this concept it puzzled me slightly. Detached from your own practice. How can you be detached from something that you have to practice with commitment and devotion. Surely, if you are too detached from it then you won’t practice every morning. I could already hear my own inner voice starting to say…..“Nah – won’t practice this morning – not really bothered bout it.”

How can you carry on having a daily encounter with yoga If you were not in love with it?

This is how I learnt what detachment from your practice meant…

I had just moved house and county. I had been busy driving up and down the motorway with car loads of stuff (things that I was not yet detached from). Moving had interrupted my weekly practice somewhat. Trying to find space for my mat in amongst the cardboard boxes was a bit tricky. In my new town I had found a new MYSORE class and was excited about finally making it to class.

I really really really wanted to practice. Not only that, but I wanted to do the FULL primary series, Ashtanga style. Fast and hard, hot and sweaty. I needed to get my energy moving and had missed my daily practice all week.

I turned up eagerly at the new class. New faces, new space, new teacher. I was keen to get going. As I started the first round of Surya Namaskara’s my new teacher came over. He interrupted my flow!

I then carried on; shortly after, he interrupted me again. He chatted about downward dog for a few minutes, then started going on about BKS Iyengar. I smiled sweetly, keen for him to finish and move away. I carried on. 2 minutes later he was back talking about the tail bone. As he walked off I felt relived, and carried on. Then he was back again. He was picking up on every little thing I was doing wrong.

I began to feel annoyed! As he walked off I felt myself scowling at him. “I Just want to practice!” I heard myself say to myself.

And so the interruptions continued.

An hour later I still had not even finished my Surya Namaskara’s. I was really fuming underneath my yogi clothes. Everyone else had finished the standing series and they were on the floor. In full flow. I was envious. I wished he would just leave me alone! How was I ever going to get through my practice with all these interruptions?

I started nearly tutting out loud when I saw him coming towards me.

My inner voice was saying “I just want to practice!!! I will never get to the end now – there simple isn’t time to do the rest of my practice before the end of class”.

I watched in disbelief as he headed back my way AGAIN “You need to use the breath to help you flow through the sequence” “How can I flow when I am being interrupted every 20 seconds??” I wanted to shout at him.

I could feel myself getting more and more annoyed. No, it had gone past annoyance – I was angry! I was angry at my teacher for trying to teach me. (yes yes – I can see the irony of it now). I was finally ready to say something when he left me alone and started helping other people. Phew!

Turns out I did get to the end of the series but I still felt annoyed, frustrated and harassed. I walked out in a right mood. “Not going back to that class” I thought to myself as I stomped off down the road in true yogi style (?).

The next morning as I got up and rolled out my mat, my new teachers words came flooding back to me. My new knowledge helped my practice no end. I realised that I had been working so much on the ‘hard’ poses that my attention had completely disappeared from the Surya Namaskara’s. I had been doing them on auto pilot – with no due care or attention…and as a result, they had become sloppy. This is why the teacher had been picking me up on every little detail, because I wasn’t paying any attention to every little detail.

I took every bit of advice that he had given me and my sun salutations took a whole new form. It brought a whole new awareness back to the start of my practice and made me realise that even after you have learnt something, you should never stop being mindful as you perform it. Going onto autopilot is not what yoga is all about. And nor is being attached to completing your practice.

As the realisation hit me, my own stinking attitude towards my wonderful new teacher seemed somewhat diabolical. How could I be so rude towards someone who was helping me so much? I realised that I was so attached to my own practice that I had been totally fixated on ‘completing’ the series rather than being open to learning and exploring my practice. You don’t go to class to fly through the practice with no input. That’s what self practice at home is for. You go to class to learn. To be observed by someone with more experience than yourself, to gain valuable insight into the practice. This very kind man had given me so much information about the practice and highlighted to me all the areas that I wasn’t paying attention and being mindful in and all I did in return was fire bad feelings towards him. How disrespectful was I?

I placed my tail firmly in-between my legs and placed my hands into prayer position. I offered a HUGE, massive, apology to him and gave thanks for his wonderful and insightful teachings. I humbly hung my head over my behaviour and vowed never to be so arrogant again.

Now that is a fine case of being too attached to your practice. I finally understood what it meant.

Do your practice, but don’t be attached to it. It may not be the same tomorrow, or next week. It will go in waves, sometimes it will be strong, sometimes weak. It may be affected by the moon, by your monthly cycle, by illness or injury, by the seasons, by becoming a parent, by love, loss or separation. It will come and go. Just accept wherever you are and how ever it us.

Do your practice, never stop doing your practice. But don’t become attached to what your practice is today. Do not become attached to ‘completing’ your practice as you will never ‘get it done’.

It is what it is. In this moment. It is what it is.

Let it be what it is.

Practise becoming detached from your practice – its not easy but its worth it.

Happy Practicing.