Discrimination and Progression on the Path

by Mona Keddy

mona ustrasana

Ustrasana

Recently I had a mentoring session with a senior teacher. I asked for clarification and refinement on some advanced poses on which I had been working in my personal practice. In reading through her responses, I noticed a pattern. For each advanced asana I wanted to focus on, my mentor asked about my proficiency in a related and less advanced pose. For example, I was asking about deeper backbends and she was asking about my ability to engage the shoulder blades and push from my thighs to my knees in Ustrasana, Camel Pose.  Often, my answer was no, not yet and I realized that often the poses she was asking about were ones I jumped past or omitted completely in my regular practice. Hmmm….

As I reflected on this experience, the essential teaching became clear. I was saying, “I can” do this pose and my mentor was saying, “yes, and should you?” She was reminding me of one of the potent practice lessons. The alignment-based hatha yoga that I practice and teach asks us to refine our discrimination and develop a sense of sequence that reflects the natural order we find in the world around us. Nature is organized and builds progressively over time to the fullness of experience. A rose starts as a bud and gradually opens in a systematic way into full bloom. Through this process energy is used with great discrimination and applied to a specific result.

In our yoga practice, we build in a similar way. We work first in foundational poses, then intermediate poses and finally toward advanced asanas. We are consistently increasing difficulty and complexity as actions and understanding are mastered. We come to understand how to apply specific actions within poses and with regard to our own body morphology or tendencies. We are requested to consistently ask: “should I?,” “how much?,” “when?” and through this we build an ability to clearly discriminate subtleties of practice.

Viveka is the Sanskrit word for this discrimination. It is translated as true wisdom and knowledge. It is through the application of our knowledge that answer the questions of when, how much and should I. We discriminate between the actions to have a more profound and personal experience. Krama is translated from Sanskrit in these ways: one after another, gradually, sequentially, with a sense of succession. It is the order with which we sequentially build either toward one pose in a practice or over time to increasingly more complex asanas. Together, viveka and krama create the way to “I can” that is true and built on a solid foundation.

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