Channeling Enthusiasm

The Spring Intensive is two weeks away, and registration is chugging along, just about half-full at this point. If you are looking to jump in, remember that the early registration date is a week away, March 20, the first day of spring.

A few days ago I was having a conversation with Renee Steinbrenner about the first time she participated in an intensive. It was a year or so after she had begun attending classes at Solaluna. There were three things she mentioned about the experience that happen to be relevant to today’s subject.

  • First, she mentioned being a little apprehensive, but excited to do it, and she ultimately surprised herself with how much she could do.
  • Second, she found a feeling of support and camaraderie from the other people participating: “It helped me connect with people and the studio on a deeper level.”
  • Third, she discovered, and continues to find much more motivation and ability to practice at home following an intensive.

These three things all connect to a sense of enthusiasm for yoga, which is the subject of today’s post. We’ll also look at how to handle that enthusiasm when it’s present.

So what needs handling or dealing with when someone is really motivated? Being fired up to do yoga is great when it occurs… What’s the problem?

As it happens, people often fluctuate between periods of interest and disinterest. This is completely normal, but sometimes the cycle back and forth happens in a way that starts to deplete the practice.

Sometimes, exactly in the moments when yoga is most awesome and interesting, the wheel of attention starts to turn the other way. Energy and focus dissipate.

Fortunately, yoga itself offers a lot of insight as to why this happens and how to avoid it. Yoga can help distribute enthusiasm so that it’s more even, with fewer highs and lows.

Being able to do this draws on elements found in the three things Renee picked up during her first intensive:

  • Finding a space that supports healthy challenges.
  • Connecting with community.
  • Gaining inner resources to keep things going.

Enthusiasm can lead a person to locate these things, and they in turn can feed and nourish enthusiasm. Still, this process can sometimes appear mysterious and haphazard. In order to better understand enthusiasm then, we’re going to explore the meaning of a very important Sanskrit word.

Tapas (not a Spanish small-plate meal).

In yoga, eagerness for practice is expressed powerfully in a single word: tapas. It literally means heat, and is often translated as strong desire for practice. More than an abstract idea, tapas is viewed as a substance that may be gathered or expended.

Tapas can wax and wane. Some circumstances and actions support strong tapas while other conditions drain it.

On the draining side of the spectrum, here’s a biggie:

There’s a curious thing that happens to many people when things are going really well, when they are most enthusiastic– they settle back, and let attention get a little hazy…

… and before you know it, the practice is in the weeds and enthusiasm gets drained.

One reason this happens is that enthusiasm requires energy. It has an intensity that can’t be sustained all the time. Taking a break is perfectly reasonable. Yet there are ways to step out of the intensity of tapas without letting go of the reins completely.

This connects to the second reason for depleted enthusiasm.

No Place to Go

Eagerness serves people when it can be channeled into something that fits their interests and abilities. If someone is inspired to expand their yoga but they don’t connect with anything that meets their motivation, then inspiration will dissipate.

A Place to Go

On the other hand, tending to a few elements that inspire and absorb enthusiasm goes a long way toward keeping the practice as steady flame.

In this way, the three elements that Renee discovered during her first intensive are great references in general for figuring out the sort of practice that makes sense for you

If you happen to feel ready to move a step beyond the demands of a regular studio class, if you are interested in connecting with people who share a similar inclination, and if you’d like some help in supporting a home practice when you can’t get to class, then the Spring Intensive is definitely something to look into. To find out more or to register, click here.