Practice is the effort of stabilizing there. But this [practice] becomes firmly grounded when performed properly, intensively, and continuously over a long period of time. — Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I.13,14
Practice is the heart of yoga and therefore we emphasize personal daily practice — a regular time devoted to looking inwards, to searching for our center.
Practice is not simply doing asana, pranayama, and meditation. It is a place for stepping back. A place to be, a place where we meet ourselves. It is a place and time where we are free to rest, purify, and reconnect. A place that is yoga.
Vijnana practice is based on four elements: sitting (meditation), pranayama (breathing practices), asana (poses), and study of yogic texts. Each one is important. And the practice of all four expresses our understanding that we are complex beings made up of body, breath, consciousness, spirit, and intellect, each interwoven with the others. In practice, when we devote time and intention to each element individually and together as a whole, an optimal reorganization of all of our facets occurs. We discover quiet, insight, and compassion within.
Quiet Sitting – Meditation
Binding the consciousness to a place is dhāraṇa (concentration). The focusing of a notion there [at that place] is dhyāna (meditation). — Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, III.1,2
Meditation is firstly settling the body in a seated position. Then our consciousness is free and usually will first meet the noise of our lives. This encounter with noise is also meditation. We do not try to force thoughts, emotions, or feelings to cease. Yet gradually the senses become more subtle. Then sometimes quiet, and the ability to observe the noise as if from the outside, arises.
Pranayama – Breathing exercises
Exhaling, inhaling, and fixing the movement of breath, lengthy or short, according to place, time, and number. — Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, II.50
Breath is the essence of our vitality. It is what drives the living organism. Pranayama is turning one’s gaze to the breathing process, observing it, and gradually, regulating the breathing. In the encounter between the observing self and the breathing and moving self we discover the connection that always exists between consciousness, breath, and movement.
Asana – Poses of Yoga
The pose is stable and pleasant. By relaxation of effort and by samāpatti with the infinite. — Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, II.46,47
In the yoga tradition we work with the body. There is an understanding of the inseparable connection between the body in its gross manifestation and the subtle components of the living entity that is us. Thus, by training the body with awareness and attention, we are exposed to the wisdom concealed within.
The Seven Principles
Vijnana Yoga practice is guided by seven principles: relaxation, quieting the mind, intention ,rooting, connecting, breathing, and elongating. When these principles exist in the practice, an understanding of mind and body that stabilize on the middle axis gradually develops.
Svadhyaya – Self-study – Study of Yogic Texts
The meaning of the word svadhyaya in Sanskrit is “to go towards oneself,” and therefore, to know or study oneself. Vyasa, the principal commentator on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, explains svadhyaya as the study of the texts and traditions of yoga. These texts hold knowledge of practitioners, teachers, and students. Studying texts is an integral element of Vijnana Yoga practice because in the texts we recognize allusions and wisdom that strengthen and enrich our practice.
Practice based on these four elements of sitting, pranayama, asana, and the study of yogic texts supports us in walking the path of yoga.