Practice is the commitment to become established in the state of freedom.
(Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1-13)
Be diligent is your efforts to attain liberation.
(the Buddha’s last words)
Practice is what Sati Yoga is about. All classic yoga texts emphasize that it is only through regular practice that one progresses in yoga.
Going to classes and workshops is useful to learn yoga techniques, but practice is a solitary activity. Once you know enough to do a 15 minutes practice on your own, start your own practice.
Once a daily practice is established, the wisdom gained while on the mat (or cushion) supports the practitioner as they move through their daily lives. One of the main priorities of any yoga teacher should be to help students establish their own home practices.
Once you have decided how much time you are going to devote daily to your practice, you need to design a practice schedule.
A balanced practice will include Surya Namaskar (sun salutaitons), some Asanas, some sitting practice (Pranayama / Meditation) and some time in Savasana.
All these elements should be kept in balance. Beginners will probably want to emphasize Asana practice, while more advanced practitioners may choose to emphasize other aspects.
As you start on the path…
“First train in the preliminaries” (Atisha mind training slogans)
Before any serious transformative practice is undertaken, the mind has to be steadied and turned toward the goal.
This is done by adopting a suitable lifestyle and following some guidelines on ethical conduct.
In Buddhism, these preliminaries are covered, by the five precepts, and in yoga, by the yamas.
- The first and most important guideline is non harming (called Ahimsa in yoga).
These means that any spiritual aspirant make it their top priority to abandon lines of conduct that result in harm to any kind of living beings. This may entails a change to a vegetarian diet, but also a change of job (if your current job is connected to the meat or arm trade, for example)
- The second one is right speech (called Satya in yoga).
This means not just abstaining not just from lying but also from slander, abusive or harsh speech and gossip or frivolous speech. Master Gautama describes right speech as timely, true, gentle, beneficial, and kind.
- The third one is abstaining from taking what is not freely given (called Asteya in yoga).
- The fourth one is wise use of energy, particularly sexual energy (called Bramacharya in yoga). Using sex as entertainment, as we often do in our Western culture, is not an option for anyone on a journey of self development. An aspirant energy should be directed toward the goal of living a more useful and fulfilling life.
- Buddhism recommends complete abstinence from mind-altering drugs, while yoga recommends non attachment (Aparigraha). Both practices are most useful to achieve more peace of mind.
Just imagine how different the world would be if everyone followed all of these guidelines, or even just one of them!
To follow these guidelines consistently, a certain level of mindfulness is necessary, and cultivating this is also one of the preliminaries.