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Attached to Your Practice—Or Just Disciplined?

By on July 16th, 2011 — Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

We practice yoga and meditation for many reasons, one of which is to let go of our attachments to emotions, relationships, and habitual patterns and addictions. But what if we start to develop an attachment to our practice? And how do we know if it’s an attachment—or if it’s discipline?

I got to thinking about this after reading a great comment that was left on my last post. I was asking whether or not it’s a good idea to take a break from one’s yoga practice while on vacation. The commenter said that it was essential to take breaks so as to not form an attachment to practice. I understood what he meant. I have been around people who will absolutely die if they can’t get to their yoga class. It can be an uncomfortable thing to watch, someone racing mindlessly out of work, or cursing while looking for parking, driven by a dire need to get on that yoga mat and decompress, dammit.

And I will admit that I have gone through stages in my life in which I depended on my practice in order to regulate my emotions and energy during times of stress, grief, or physical ailments. That was when I practiced more at studios, and I refused to miss one class with my teacher. I gave up certain professional opportunities, not to mention social plans, because of this determination. But in a sense, that urgency was helpful because it kept me showing up day after day. It felt like discipline.

But discipline and attachment are separated by a fine line. I was disciplined about practice, but i was also desperate for it. Addicted, even. Now, as attachments go, an asana practice isn’t a terrible one. It’s not like smoking or drinking or being stuck in a codependent relationship. But, an attachment is an attachment, and who wants to be dependent on anything—even yoga? (Nowadays, I am much less aggro about yoga—but I also miss, on occasion, the beginner’s fervor.)

Have you ever had periods in your life where you felt attached to your practice? Or do you just think it was discipline? Are there dangers to over-reliance on one’s practice? Or is it necessary to have at least some form of attachment to one’s practice in order to progress in it? Write in and tell us what you think!

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4 Reader Comments

  1. Posted By: Michael 7/27/2011 @ 1:37 pm

    very interesting, as an ashtangi and practicing Buddhist, that’s where the rubber hits the road isn’t it. Am I attached or just disciplined? As with all things, for me, it comes down to intent…do I practice with the intention to be present with whatever is there, attachment, discipline etc, or do I practice just to take my mind off from whatever else is vying for attention. If the intent of the practice is to be present with whatever is there, then I think its discipline, if its to “escape”, its attachment.

    but having said that, I’m reminded of the words of that wonderful Buddhist philospher Van Morrison, “how can we not be attached, after all we are only human”

    blue skies

  2. Posted By: T.Christine 7/27/2011 @ 7:18 pm

    Yes, we need to “enlighten” up and let go a little; maybe NOT take a yoga class, at least while on vacation. I do look forward to the endorphin high and the vacation from my life that I get while I am practicing or teaching yoga. I think one danger is that we can become injured from too much yoga…or we may be running or down-dogging away from something that we need to attend to or sit with? I use vacation or travel time to experiment with very different types or styles of yoga, trying out new teachers or classes; taking a type of class that normally I wouldn’t, trying different approaches as it awakens me in new ways. Or, while away from home, I don’t practice for a few days, just to watch what happens (if I start to jones out). Remember, yoga is NOT just asana; so we can “do” our yoga in so many different ways besides 60 or 90 minutes on our mat.

    I agree with blue skies, it always come down to intention…why am I doing what I do, what’s my motivation? My yoga practice has become my one true thing; while the rest of my world is filled with uncertainty and change, ups and downs, there is always my mat, my body and my breath. Namaste!

  3. Posted By: 2littlewings 8/18/2011 @ 5:01 am

    The parking lot….that hits home! I try to remind myself when I get frustrated in traffic that the person who just cut me off may be on the mat beside me in a few minutes which helps me stay calm in that moment!

    This is an interesting topic to think about…..thanks for bringing it up

  4. Posted By: stevebradley 11/27/2011 @ 5:16 pm

    I’m intrigued by this thread. I happened into Yoga back in March, just as my typical triathlon season was set to kick into full gear. It’s been that way for years now, to the point where swimming and biking and running and racing were the core of my existence, it seemed (and often, in fact, was).

    So, along came Yoga…..and suddenly triathlon seemed far less important. The upshot of this was that I had a much-toned-down race season than usual, and I revelled in no longer being such a slave to tri, and having something new that – on several levels – had huge importance to me; that would be Yoga.

    Well……..after a September hiatus (had to fit in some late-season races!) from Yoga, I realized how much I had missed it, and in part that was due to how much I had done between March and September (thanks to a $130/month unlimited seniors pass). It had come down to about six classes per week, and suddenly it dawned on me that I had just traded triathlon for Yoga, and that while (temporarily?) no longer attached to triathlon, I was now attached to Yoga. Hmmmm.

    I wonder if for some/many of us, “disciplined” is just a euphemism for “attached”; it seems to work that way with me, anyhow. While my tri season is over “Yoga season” is in full-swing — to the tune of 45 classes since my last race on Oct. 3. Oh, my!

    Disciplined? Attached? In love? The latter works, I think. I love the people at the studio, the nature of the practice itself (whatever the style), and the studio itself — I volunteer cleaning it 3-6X a week. And, by virtue of being retired, I avoid some of those unseemly things, such as racing mindlessly from work and trying desperately to cram it into other parts of my life; it just fits well with my life, and also the life of my wife, who has been doing Yoga for quite a while now.

    Still, that matter of possible attachment lingers…………