I miss teaching beginner yoga students. In the early 2000’s, I taught both Basics and Advanced classes in Los Angeles.
One of the hallmark characteristics that distinguishes Beginner from Advanced levels of practice is how a yoga practitioner Reacts vs. Responds to a given pose.
For example, when I guide a raw beginner into a challenging pose relative to their level, there is more instant reaction – an Ouch!, a groan, some fidgeting, or even laughter. With a more advanced student, there is more silent response – breath, space, a slow adjustment, and finally stillness. There is more equanimity in the face of discomfort.
Equanimity is one area where Buddhism and Yoga overlap.
The First Noble Truth of Buddhism informs us that life contains unavoidable, inevitable suffering. The Buddhist will aspire to a higher-level framing of the Suffering-and-Pleasure principle by learning to encompass pain without its unrealistic suppression or avoidance and to strive for pleasure without attachment or dependence upon its perpetuation.
In The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali 1.33, we learn about equanimity:
The projection of friendliness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity(Upeksha) towards objects brings about the pacification of consciousness.
~ Translation: Georg Feurstein
Sometimes translated as “Indifference,” Upeksha is better understood as equanimity – a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced and clear response to all situations rather than a response borne of reactivity or emotion. It is neither indifference nor a bland state of neutrality.
Last week in Yoga Nidra, our Energy Rotation of the body included experiencing extreme cold and extreme heat in each body part while remaining in non-reactive, witness consciousness. This exercise an excellent way to train ourselves to cultivate equanimity.
Your asana practice also offers a great opportunity to become better at recognizing where, when, and how you get swept away by reactivity and to observe your attachment to results.
Bottom Line: Higher levels of equanimity naturally occur with consistent practice. Please consider joining me weekly for your Upeksha evolution!