What is yoga?
You’re on the home straight to mental peace, if you’ve been following, and putting into practice, our series of blogs over the past few months. But there’s one final quality of mind that is absolutely essential to develop in order to reach that stillness of the mind and self-realisation we’ve been speaking of, and it is perhaps the hardest of all to maintain.
It’s something you will no doubt have heard of since you were just a child. It’s a quality we’re always told we need to have. It has been described as the best remedy for every trouble. It’s often been called a virtue. It’s something many people who live in our modern day society seriously lack. Cast your mind back to the 1990s, and you might even remember the band Guns ‘n’ Roses wailing that all we needed was a little of it…
Patience. A quality of mind that is a constant ‘work in progress’ for many, and a skill that is also quite difficult to apply to many situations or people. Patience can be related to suffering, to waiting, to work, to children, to family, to friends, to relationships, to creating, to anger, to sadness, to excitement, to change, to time – to just about anything in your daily life. It doesn’t always come easily, and just like your physical asanas, patience is something you must practice.
You must always have patience with yourself, during your practice – not all postures are possible for all people, but this does not mean you are not practicing yoga. It has taken time for you to attain your faith, to develop self-control, to foster determination and to achieve concentration. Have you been patient with yourself while working on these qualities over time? Or have you been impatient, willing time to speed up, so you can get to the outcome faster? Just because you can’t lift your leg above your head doesn’t mean you are not practicing yoga. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Bikram Choudhury explains that self-realisation is a lifelong process, thus explaining the need to seek patience. “You journey will be a long one,” he says. “It’s not an overnight thing, like they FedEx it to you.” He admits to personally finding patience the most difficult attribute of them all to put into practice himself – yoga teachers are only human after all – and insists he does his best. This is all we can do – give our best.
Because patience can’t be taught in class, or learnt via hours of researching on the internet, Bikram recommends spending time at home in Savasana pose in order to help build your patience over time. This goes beyond the 20-second corpse pose experiences during class – rather, it’s the chance to challenge your mind to be still for five minutes or so per day. If you exercise your patience, as you lay flat on your back with your arms by your sides, palms facing upwards, eyes open and inhaling and exhaling through the nose, eventually the mind’s chatter will die down. It’s a waiting game. Patience versus the mind.
It’s not always easy, and it’s an ongoing learning experience, but developing patience is key to calming the mind, in practice and in daily life alike.