The previous aphorism is often quoted as the guideline for asana. Yet for some reason this sutra is not cited so frequently, although it is an equally important guideline addressing how asana is practiced. Once again there are two ideas combined. The first one is letting go of all struggles, and the second is to remove all distractions. This brief instruction can be interpreted as a call for high efficiency. Struggle and distractedness will squander physical and mental energy, becoming an obstacle to the meditative nature of your posture and actions. “Endlessly integrated” describes all resources articulating harmoniously. In practicing asana (posture) and vinyasa (transition between postures), all systems and all aspects of yourself are coming together, supporting and enhancing one another. Endlessly integrated also means to weave together your physical, mental, emotional, and respiratory aspects seamlessly and effortlessly. Releasing all struggle is a suggestion helping to prevent the common action of increasing force when something is not working, just like a person who is not understood by a speaker of a different language will tend to increase the volume of speech to bring the message across, or the person trying to fit a piece into another may try to push a little bit harder to accomplish the task. Releasing struggle is common sense to remind you that struggle is not only ineffectual, it is also a waste of your precious energy. The converse side of this idea is that you can tell a seasoned craftsperson by the elegance and economy in his actions. From the purely physical perspective, a sign of physical fitness is a body that maintains a low heartbeat and easeful breathing even when engaged in challenging physical activity.
From the vantage point of “endlessly integrated,” consider what happens when you observe a consummate performance in any field. It seems like time stands still. An attitude that contributes to timelessness is the attitude of having infinite time. Then there is no rush, no hurry, and no struggle so that everything can articulate effortlessly. One way to embody this guideline is by letting go of your agenda and by choosing instead to explore with playful curiosity so that you may experience directly what it feels like to do what you are doing. This seems like a healthy approach conducive to experiencing asana according to the comment on the previous sutra, becoming a steady meditative abode of emptiness. This aphorism echoes the sentiment expressed in sutras 1.3 and 1.4, abiding in one’s true nature and free from misidentification with one’s temporary ways of being. Releasing of struggle is stepping into being with what is, as it is, and being with yourself just as you are. Many of the struggles and distractions result from trying to be something that you are not, like when you try to be as you think you should be or as you think others expect you to be.
As you practice asana, what are the struggles that emerge?
What are the sources of those struggles?
Are your struggles a symptom of your assumptions and expectations?
Can you notice mental, physical, or emotional agitation?
Is your breath continuous, smooth, and fluid?
Are you in a rush?
Is there a hidden agenda?
Is your practice a way to meet yourself, to make yourself into somebody different or to avoid meeting yourself?
What is your relationship to time in your practice?
Can your asana and vinyasa practice be a timeless abiding in contemplative presence?
What happens if you take several rounds of breath ensuring that your inhalations and exhalations are smooth, continuous, and long?
Try a few rounds of a sequence of postures that is quite familiar for you. Observe your breath as closely as possible.
What do you notice?
Is your breath easeful?
If it isn’t, when do these qualities change?
Do you hold your breath?
Does your breath get jerky or jagged?
Does your breath get short and labored?
How are the transitions between your inhalations and your exhalations?
Can you balance the length and quality of your inhalation and your exhalation?
You may also want to observe if your practice feels different when you match your movements to your breath.
What is your attitude when you practice?
Can you be fully focused on what you are doing?
Is your practice a tool to integrate your body, mind, emotions, and breathing?
As usual, one more way of exploring the meaning of this sutra is by chanting it.
You can choose to chant it in its traditional form with some of the words coming together:
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually:
If you prefer, you may listen to the podcast: