Go with the flow, or focus, work hard and be productive?
Take life as it comes, or get that career down and get promoted?
These seem to be lifestyle choices, and they seem to be at odds with each other.
Both are valid approaches to Yoga practice. Remember, “practice” means rehearsing for something – as you might practice anything before you do it for real in some big event, or to perfect it. The difference with Yoga is that you don’t know when the “big event”, or some kind of permanent, utterly positive, shift in attitude, is going to happen: it could happen on any day. So, Yoga practices are like tools for shaping an outcome. The process of using the tools can be regimented and carefully orchestrated, or it can be spontaneous and unorthodox.
Rephrasing the original question: Should we let life unfold, and see how Yoga slots into each situation we find ourselves in? Or do we need a clear, defined Yoga and Hot Yoga practice regime, designed to get reliable and repeatable results? It’s not just a lifestyle choice, it’s at the heart of how we practice Yoga.
Over the long time that Yoga has been practiced, people have used both approaches with resounding success. (As an aside, that’s one of the great things about Yoga – nothing is excluded, as long as it works. The only qualification for inclusion is usefulness.)
They’re different paradigms of course. To characterise the difference, consider what happens when you are on the edge of sleep. You’re resting in bed, and drifting into a wind of unconsciousness. In its own way, it’s blissful. Random thoughts, images, colours, sounds – all these things might wander through the mind. They come and go and come and go, and sometimes, something grabs your attention. Thinking kicks in, and maybe you groan inside, realising that it’s going to be a difficult night…
The drifting has not necessarily ended, but the flow has been frozen for analysis. Then it gets categorised as important, or not important, or however you view things. You can probably see the analogy. Going with the flow is like the drifting: amazing insights are available, and these come and go without remark. The focused approach is more like the halting: one thing of interest has been found, and attention is going to remain there.
The Yogafurie Academy Teacher Training program asks students to read a translation and commentary of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. This is a very old book, a practice manual for contemplative Yoga from many years ago. Developing concentration is central to the practice it describes: specifically, the development of the one-pointed mind. The means to developing such laser-focus is a kind-hearted detachment from life – the way parents might lovingly empathise with their child’s woes and even tend their wounds, but not buy-in to the details. The student concentrates on Yoga practice to progress in Yoga.
Other Indian traditions took a different view: Tantra encourages students to get as involved as possible with the currents and details of life. Every experience is an opportunity to practice: every experience offers some insight into an underlying unity that ties all experiences together.
Of course, I still haven’t answered the original question: Go with the flow, or focus, work hard and be productive?
As a general rule: the people that can concentrate and focus on one thing, should follow the rule-based path. The people that can’t work that way should go with the flow. But there’s much more to it than that. Everybody needs some freedom and individuality. Everybody needs some concentration and focus. Both practice methods work, and they work best when people are ready to use both appropriately.
Where’s the best place to learn that? Well, that question would have as many answers as there are Yoga students. But a great place to start is with oneself, when drifting off to sleep. If you are a person who’s out cold as soon as their head hits the pillow – can you wait awhile, can you drift and observe without thinking? If you are a person who struggles to sleep because of an over-active mind – how will you learn to drop into the currents of unconsciousness?
In terms of sleep, what happens next is crucial. Once the thought has been categorised, does thinking disengage to resume drifting (and off to sleep), or do we fall into a cycle of thought and counter-thought (ie, stay awake)? This can guide your choice of Yoga method. Drifters really might be able to just go with the flow. Thinkers probably need structure and regime. As always, no matter how far we go, the Yoga journey is only just beginning – and the answer is always within ourselves, right here, right now. Or maybe tonight!
Yogafurie has carefully constructed 7 different styles of Yoga & Hot Yoga to suit whatever your requirements. Class styles such as Core Deep, Classic Furie or Fierce Furie offer structure and focus. Whereas Freedom Flow, Yin and Glow Flow offer the freedom and openness required to allow creativity and insight. The great thing is, no matter which style you choose, they’re all great for helping you get off to sleep that night!