“The practice of yoga will be firmly rooted when it is maintained consistently and with dedication over a long period.” – from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
I love the image of a tree that Patanjali paints with a single word: rooted.
And I love how he suggests our practice is like a tree, rooted deeply into the earth, expanding toward the sky, bending with the wind, swaying, dancing, celebrating the miracle of our bodies, the joy of life, the mystery of the divine.
But what does it mean to be firmly rooted?
Perhaps it means feeling not just that our roots are planted in the earth, but that they are held in the earth’s embrace in such a way that they form a strong foundation for our practice and our life.
How would you describe the “roots” of your practice?
What might you “plant” into the earth to gain stability, firmness, confidence?
My teachers often invite us to plant our feet in class so that we feel rooted to the earth. It is a very physical action requiring us to use our bodies in a certain way.
But might the roots of practice be something unrelated to our bodies or to physical action?
Roots might mean, as Patanjali suggests, something more abstract, such as our willingness to dedicate ourselves to our practice.
Or roots might mean love, as in how much do you love stepping onto your mat?
Or faith, as in how much faith do you have that you can enter into an unfamiliar or challenging pose?
So, you might think about love and faith and dedication as possible roots for your practice.
Or you might think about determination, too, as another root.
That’s because if you have no determination to persist when a pose gets hard, you’ll give up your practice.
The deeper our roots, the deeper our commitment to yoga.
Patanjali offers two ways to establish deep roots.
First, he advises us to maintain a consistent practice.
Not just an oh-I-happen-to-feel-like-doing-yoga practice, although that might be a way to start, but, rather, a consistent way of coming to the mat. Once a week, perhaps, in class. Or twice a week in a home practice. Or three times a week after work or before breakfast.
If you create consistency in your practice, you’ll be able to watch how your roots grow and how your commitment to your yoga practice deepens.
Patanjali also suggests maintaining your dedication to the practice for a long period of time.
I find this helpful to remember, especially after a discouraging class when I’ve had trouble in a particular pose, or the next day when I feel especially sore or tired. He reminds us that we can’t judge the worth of our practice in a day or after a single class.
For those of us practicing yoga for a while, Patanjali reminds us that we didn’t come to our understanding of yoga in a week or month. It has taken many years for most of us to begin to understand the benefits of the poses. Likewise, it has taken time to admit what we don’t yet know about yoga or about ourselves. Our strengths and our weaknesses are revealed over time, just as over time our poses reveal the fears that we need to overcome.
In this fourteenth sutra, Patanjali offers us a guide to deepening our practice so that it can sustain us when the strong winds of life threaten to sweep us off our feet.
With firmly planted roots, we can keep our balance in our practice and in our lives.
Practice Journal: Do you practice yoga with consistency? How does that consistency influence your sense of feeling deeply rooted in your practice? Write: 10 min.
Note: “The practice of yoga will be firmly rooted when it is maintained consistently and with dedication over a long period.” – from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated and introduced by Alistair Shearer (Bell Tower, New York, NY).