In yoga sutra II.3, Patanjali tells us that one of the five main causes of suffering ( kleshas) is dvesha, translated from the Sanskrit as aversion, repulsion or avoidance. Taken to extremes, avoidance can do ourselves or others harm. We asked our teachers about avoidance or aversion in their asana practice and we share their responses with you here.
I find that I have an aversion to balancing postures….especially teaching balancing. I have a really hard time with them as I find myself not being able to maintain balance. I used to make lots of excuses to myself why I can’t seem to balance…I had lots of middle ear infections as a child, I once had a concussion and surely that is why I cannot balance, the highlights in my hair have gone to my brain!!!!
If I am a student in someone else’s class and I can see they want to do balance I will get really thirsty or will have to use the restroom.
What I did was just sit with the aversion for a while and ask myself….where do I feel this in my body? my emotions? what kind of mental stories am I telling myself?? AM I SOMEHOW OUT OF BALANCE IN ANOTHER AREA OF MY LIFE? Did I have an uncomfortable quarrel with a family member that is not resolved? Did I have too much wine the night before? Can I just accept???? Because really we come to the practice with an open heart and acceptance. Yoga is about ACCEPTANCE and Compassion and love.
In my practice I tend to avoid restorative yoga. I think the reason why is the physical aspect of yoga. Even knowing the benefits of restorative yoga, I am so busy with work and family, the time I make for yoga I tend to make it a more physical practice. It is somewhat ironic because I do believe restorative is most beneficial to anyone with a busy life or hectic mind. Part of my strategy in making time for restorative is to add it into my home practice. I try to take time either at the beginning or end. I am always happy when I do!
As a newer student of yoga, I was more prone to aversion. Judith Lasater’s advice has been, “Pick a posture you hate and practice it every day for two weeks. See what happens after the two weeks are up.” So I followed that advice and it worked pretty well. I did dislike revolved triangle when I first began practicing, and now it is one of my favorite poses.
These days, I don’t feel that I avoid or dislike any of them; I sometimes have to plan better so I can be sure to get to everything I want in the practice time I’ve allotted. Often I wrap up my practice and think, “Rats! Wanted to include [this one]!” And I tend to get fixated for long-ish periods of time on certain postures or posture groups, to the exclusion of others. But for me, now it’s more a question of time or focus than one of active aversion. I figure that in time I will get back to postures that I haven’t practiced in awhile, and sometimes they seem like old friends, and sometimes they seem brand new.
Balance poses – I just don’t love doing them and often don’t work them into my personal practice…but when I don’t do them I definitely notice I feel less overall clarity and more distracted in my day to day. I feel less awareness about my body and the space I’m in. so when I notice this I try to do more. Lately I’ve been practicing balance poses with my daughter – which has been fun but also good for both of us because she is a lot like me!
I generally have an aversion to…discomfort, and my asana practice is teaching me to to distinguish between the different flavors it comes in.
As someone who frequently walks and bikes, I find bow pose pretty uncomfortable – takes a ton of effort and doesn’t feel very good. But this kind of discomfort is worth leaning into, I’m learning, because the pose is slowly making me more flexible in my quads and groin. Also, I’m discovering a kind of vitality in the gut when I do the pose.
On the other hand, when I have tugged persistently for weeks at my hamstrings or shoulders in uttanasana or eagle pose, it has led to chronic aches that have taken months to go away. Persisting in the face of that kind of discomfort isn’t a good thing – even though the physical sensation feels kind of similar to the discomfort of bow pose.
The real benefit of this for me is that I seem to be carrying this lesson over into different parts of my life. As my yoga practice evolves, I’m learning to distinguish between the different flavors of discomfort in my work, relationships, and even in my beliefs. This is what keeps it interesting for me – to learn when to hang in there and when to turn away.
I sometimes tend to avoid doing restorative poses. I have a belief that if I’m not “working hard enough” in my physical asana practice with the more active poses that I’m not progressing. This is my ego talking! Then, I think about the question of what progression in my yoga practice really means to me.
Does advancement on the yoga path mean getting better at doing more or better poses OR does it mean being able to connect with that awake, aware, non-judgemental part of myself that I think of as my authentic Self and being able to live in the world happily and making my contribution to life by following my Dharma, my purpose? For me, its the latter and a restorative practice can bring me back to that connection with Self in a big way. If I can just get over the hump of starting! When I win the struggle with my ego and am finally on the mat doing a restorative practice, its such a relief to lay aside all the effort of doing and REST, remembering who I really am.