Klesa Project: Abhinivesa, Home Practice Edition

Dropping back from Sirsasana (Headstand) to Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (2-legged inverted staff posture) makes me feel like I'm being chased down a back alley by the Lord of Death. I become irrational. I'm concerned my kneecaps are going to die, but in this moment I am my kneecaps and when they die, I DIE! I'm ensnared in the web of a Klesa. During my month at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune India, I decided to face my fear and drop back a couple of times each day. By the end of the month, I was practicing this pose on a daily basis with mild trepidation and delight at my progress! (With the support of my roomate and props!)

What’s a Klesa?

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light On Life (p. 190)

“The Afflictions (Klesa) are a particular pattern of disturbance of the human consciousness, as universal and prevalent as fruit flies to healthy apples. Our state of mind at any given moment is a wave pattern. It is incredibly complex. It is constantly modified by outside stimuli, an advertisement, an unkind word, a smile from a friend. Rising thoughts from the unconscious and memory confuse it further – a wish, a regret. But there are more enduring patterns of interference that I shall explain now. They are as inbuilt in us as fruit flies are in the lifecycle of apples. They are called the polluting fluctuations of consciousness or afflictions (klesa). They corrupt our lives and vitiate our best intentions to ripen as a person."

On Abhinivesa, (p. 107): “The final wave pattern or affliction that influences our lives is experienced at an instinctual level. At an instinctual level, it makes good sense, as we are all animals trying to stay alive. It is when we upgrade a natural survival mechanism to inappropriate levels that trouble arises. It is called Fear of Death or Clinging to Life (Abhinivesa.)"

These Klesas can be in different stages of expression: dormant, weakened, intermittent or fully blown. Asana practice is one of the avenues to weaken the potency of these afflictions. Let's get to it!

What posture could you work on at home that would help you to grow faith, courage and weaken the grip of a current fear?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you "upgraded a natural survival mechanism to an inappropriate level” in a posture. If you don't currently practice headstand, I would say it is appropriate to have fear around dropping back into a backbend. However, if you are afraid of headstand and you don't have any contraindications for it's practice, then tackling the fear in class with your teacher and a wall for support could be a good laboratory!

  • Can you create the conditions for a strong stable foundation in the pose? Some part of the pose needs to be unwavering as you face your fear. (i.e.: you are afraid of pushing up into a backbend but can use a chair for support to take the shape.)

  • Have a plan. How can you tackle the posture in stages and use props to increase your level of independence/exposure to your fear, over time.

  • "We must be bold; we must be cautious."-B.K.S. Iyengar, Sparks of Divinity. Practice Ahimsa (non-harm), listen to the messages from your body and seek guidance from an experienced teacher.

My hope in writing is simply to get you to question what is in the way of your ripening?

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