Often habits are what define the tone and texture of life. They influence our choices on levels both conscious and unconscious and can be the driving force behind success and contentment or repeating cycles of futility and frustration. We bring our habits with us onto our mats every time we practice. Although frustrating at times, ultimately it is our receptivity and willingness to work with our habits while on our mat that allows us to go deeper in our practice and in life. Much to the chagrin of many a practitioner, working harder in yoga doesn't necessarily mean that we will develop the receptivity necessary to overcome our habits. In fact, Patanjali tells us that trying too hard to succeed can be one of the biggest obstacles on our path. Instead, he encourages us to seek homeostasis, or equilibrium, both within and without via the principles of sthira (steadiness) and suka (ease). It is by learning to keep the body-mind complex relaxed during periods of agitation that we develop the receptivity to eventually see and then alter even "our deepest personal conditioning and the suffering it generates." One of the best descriptions of these principles I have come across is in Chip Hartranft's book The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali:
"Asana is a window that opens onto some of our deepest personal conditioning and the suffering it generates. In order to relax into things as they actually are, one must surrender every last drop of the internalized desire to feel good. That desire is shaped by our most cherished ideas about what constitutes good and bad, as well as by ingrained, organic perceptions of pleasure, pain, and neutrality. ... Relaxing effort means letting go of limiting internal definitions. Simply put,
in asana one must do less to be more." pg 38
Happy New Year!
John Merideth - Winter 2012