Meditation Monday #32 – How to Meditate: The Two Pillars of Yoga

Alternating periods of intense activity and rest is an important part of life, so it’s no surprise that this principle serves as the foundation of yoga itself.

This is the opening sentence to a 2007 Yoga Journal web article describing the two pillars of yoga: Abhyasa and Vairagya that I use with my Yoga II students. For the next few weeks I plan to focus our Meditation Monday posts on the topics I cover with them in regards to meditation. I have previously presented a series of 4 posts titled How to Meditate that covered some basic meditation techniques. Now I am expanding that for you with a deeper practice into meditation as well as my own insights on the topics at hand.First, I promised you a little recap of the end of my weekend in Rochester. I finished my workshop early Sunday afternoon with the fabulous women at RAC! Enjoyed my final meal at Root 31

So want their recipe for the slaw….normally I hate slaw.

(salmon brioche sandwich minus bacon and tomatoes) and then spent 4 hours sitting around the airport in Rochester. Why can’t there be more flights on Sundays?

Now I’m back home and back to the regular schedule of my life. My life as a yogi requires me to practice in many ways. It requires me to think about others, to take care of myself, to give and receive gratefully, to put my body into poses, to meditate, to breathe, to study myself, and to grow constantly.

My life as a fitness professional asks me many of the same things. It requires me to educate and take care of others through their fitness journey, to take care of myself, to give of my gifts of fitness, to put my body through training, and to learn new things through continuing education, research, and practice. Today I plan to do my HIIT workout instead of run because I want to run with a friend tomorrow.

My life as a mother, sister, daughter, wife, friend, etc asks me to live in many of the same ways that yoga does in order to grow in my relationships. And my Happiness Project this month very much asks me to self study, take care of myself, and live in a way that promotes the practice of health.

On the flip side of practice (Abhyasa) is detachment (Vairagya). In the Yoga Journal web article above detachment is described as the opposite of practice, or rest at first. To me this is a very “fitness” way of looking at things and appeals to my fitness mind. I’ve written about Vairagya before in regards to letting go of things, ideas, etc. But, what about letting go of your practice for a day? What about resting?

Many religions (and again, Yoga is not a religion) believe in a day of rest. Many cultures around the world take time for rest in the middle of their day. In the world I live in now there is very little reward for resting. Even when it comes to fitness….we tell clients to take rest days, but more often than not we offer them ways to cross train on those “days off”. What would a rest from practice look like?

I started considering this on Sunday while at the airport. I had worn contacts on Saturday to teach, but my eyes were too tired on Sunday to put contacts in, so I gave them a rest and wore my glasses instead. Today I have a dentist appointment (I like them), but admit that there have been times I am lax in brushing my teeth before bed. There are many times I’ve written about giving myself permission to rest from exercise. There are many times I’ve “fallen off of the yoga wagon” and failed to practice meditation nor posturally for awhile. Is it okay to take a rest from other types of practice?

This weekend I was reading blog posts that I’d missed over the last week and came across a post by Ashley at The Running Rebel. At the end of her post she talks about her eating patterns of late and the toll that has taken on her performance in life. So, when does taking a break disrupt our practice? These are the questions I’ve been pondering during my meditation.

How can I balance the practice of life with rest, letting go, renouncing, detaching? Where should my effort lay? Later in the article the definitions of Abhyasa and Vairagya come to mean being present and surrender. Can you be present in the moment and remember that it is transient? Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats writes of trying, as a new mom to baby number two, to remember that this time in our life is short…..that some things won’t matter in 5 years from now; let alone 5 minutes from now. I think this is the real truth of the Two Pillars of Yoga: enjoy life and know that this too shall pass.

I’m curious….

What are your definitions of Abhyasa and Vairagya?

How do you practice and rest?

Are you present in this moment and surrendering to it at the same time?


2 thoughts on “Meditation Monday #32 – How to Meditate: The Two Pillars of Yoga

  1. I LOVE this!
    Yoga save my life and meditation gave it meaning.
    You are soooo right when you write about the cultural stigma regarding reward-less rest.
    I’m an obsessive compulsive when it comes to anything. Perfectionist to the core and it hasn’t served me well 😦
    I think any of our daily routines need to be subject to both Abhyasa and Vairagya. Sweetly, as I , get older, Vairagya isn’t near as challenging …. 😉
    I think I do pretty well living in the moment, but I still have issues with ‘letting go.’ That’s why I read Rubber Shoes in Hell… So I know I’m not the only one and to get some perspective.
    This was a very educational and perspective inspiring piece!
    I appreciate your work and envy your students! But in the good way 🙂 You are helping humanity and I am using Youtube and the library for my new Yoga ideas and it would be fun to discuss and watch others embrace the routines and glow.
    I am a solitary practice… on the edge of the Columbia, I enjoy my rural lifestyle because it feels more healthy and connected, but, there are times I’d LOVE to walk into a full-fledged Yoga studio and get my Abhyasa on ❤


    1. Welcome Lisa! I am grateful to hear from another yoga traveler. It’s hard for us Type A people to sometimes see the rewards of down time. I am glad that yoga and meditation are giving you that!


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