“Pranayama is not performed by the power of will. The breath must be enticed or cajoled, like catching a horse in a field, not by chasing after it, but by standing still with an apple in one’s hand. In this way pranayama teaches humility and frees us from greed and hankering after the fruits of our actions. Nothing can be forced; receptivity is everything.” - B.K.S Iyengar
Pranayama (breath awareness and manipulation) is how Iyengar teaches the concept of receptivity, but it does not take much to see how this lesson can extend to various aspects of modern day living. In fact, this is one of the stories from Iyengar’s Light on Life that is easy for me to retrieve from memory. It is memorable because it illuminates a core struggle for so many of us. I see it on the mat with my students, and I see it on the street in the eyes of ambitious New Yorkers. I sense the struggle in myself on a daily basis when I sit down to work.
Willpower seems to fuel so many of our ambitions, dreams, and desires. Setting a goal is one thing. Forcing a path to achieve it is another. We push, we pull, we desire, we sacrifice, we want, and we work really hard. We chase.
This anecdote about catching a horse with an apple in hand is a wonderful reminder for us to also practice being still on our path sometimes. Removing force from our efforts might in turn allow what we are seeking to come to us. We receive.
With big projects looming, I know I need to practice this right now. Perhaps you do too?
- TaraMarie Perri