Home yoga practice, Music and yoga, My YTT

Singing can be yoga

We had our May YTT intensive this past weekend. We sang a lot. We learned a ton. So, so much.

Just this morning, while doing laundry, I found myself singing while meditatively folding my family’s clothing into stacked bundles. I decided to go with it, and after singing / folding for about ten minutes, I found I’d worked up quite a bit of heat.

When I finished, I drank a glass of water and my two year-old and I shared a pear. These simple things felt like a full, gratifying morning.

Sometimes yoga is something other than a “workout.” Sometimes it is sitting with friends and and connecting by singing. Sometimes it is doing something for you, even while conducting the most commonplace tasks in life. Whistling while you work, so to speak.

“Don’t worry about how well you carry a tune or whether you know all the words… Come. Sing along. You’ll have the time of your life.” Melody Beattie,”Journey to the Heart,” page 147.

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Home yoga practice, meditation, Music and yoga, Yoga off the mat

Music as meditation

I listen to a lot of music. It occurred to me that music has been my meditation since I was about seven years old. I imagine it’s not uncommon.

The ancient philosopher Plato wrote about music as being “most sovereign because… rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon it… imparting grace, if one is rightly trained… ” (The Republic, III, 399e). As an undergrad, I heard Ted Romberg summarize another of Plato’s views on music, which I remember as, “Music is the most perfect way to divide and account for time.” (Paraphrasing… )

Each time you listen to or play music to indulge, to set or change a mood… that is a form of meditation. Also singing. Putting headphones on as way to zone out, on the sidewalk, or on the train, that is a form of meditation. I started doing it when I was young, as a means to curb social anxiety, but it is what it is.

When we listen to music as we walk or run, it sets the pace, it makes us happy, it distracts us from the slog of the jog. We are training our mind to let go of the boring or painful parts of an activity. Music, to many of us, becomes a focus. It is a meditative device.

As a yoga teacher in training, I take my playlist preparation seriously. Music isn’t required, but it certainly can compliment a yoga class, especially if you like to flow. It is an accompaniment.

Home yoga practice

Gratitude

Within 24 hours of saying “Yes,” and leaping before looking at the details, the details appear to be coming into place. With the support of my global community of friends, I have 

1. Been offered a yoga mat upgrade from friend I’ve made through yoga, whom I don’t believe even uses social media. She knows I need it because she sees my nasty old mat every week. 

See:


2. Been offered a local outdoor space to hold classes.

3. Raised enough money to cover the $500 deposit for my YTT

I am beyond words. Thank you. 

Books about yoga, Home yoga practice

To Tie the Strings of the Mind Together: Reading “The Heart of Yoga,” by T.K.V. Desikachar

As the calendar rolled into 2017, I got in my mind that I should start practicing yoga regularly at home. But what would that mean? What would a personal yoga practice look like?

I asked myself these questions because, after twelve years of taking yoga classes for exercise, off and on, I have come to realize that yoga is more than asanas. Asanas are the physical poses and breathing that typically come to mind when one hears the word “yoga.”

I asked my yoga-loving friends for book and/or website recommendations that would help me develop what I called a “home practice.” Most of the recommendations I received were centered on doing asana routines alone. I already have a number of books, videos, and apps to help me exercise. So I asked my yoga teacher for suggestions, and she had only one: to read the book The Heart of Yoga, Developing a Personal Practice, by T.K.V. Desikachar, which I will from now on refer to as THOY when writing, for brevity.

My local library network did not have any copies, so I ordered from the behemoth online seller we all hate to love. At first blush, I thought maybe it was a mistake for me to read a book like THOY. It begins with an interview with T.K.V. Desikachar about his father, Sri T. Krishnamacharya. I am not going to lie. The first page or two were labor intensive, with many Indian names and phrases I am unfamiliar with. To be brutally honest, I did not care at all about the author or his father… in my head I kept thinking, “OK now let’s get to the HOW to develop a personal practice for ME.”

I stuck with it, because I could see that chapter one is titled Yoga: Concept and Meaning, and I just knew I had to get there. I’m so glad I didn’t put the book down, because there… on the first page of that chapter… I found what I was looking for. Desikachar writes:

“Many different interpretations of the word yoga have been handed down over the centuries. One of these is ‘to come together,’ ‘to unite.’ Another meaning of the word yoga is ‘to tie the strands of the mind together.'”

DING DING DING! This is what I was feeling at yoga classes recently… the meeting of my physical body and the intellectual or spiritual me, the “tying together” of these things. Desikachar continues:

“While ‘coming together’ gives us a physical interpretation of the word yoga, an example of tying the strands of the mind together is the directing of our thoughts toward the yoga sessions before we take on an actual practice. Once those mental strands come together to form an intention, we are ready to begin the physical work.”

YES! YES! YES! As I read the paragraph I felt purpose vibrate through me. This. THIS is what I am striving for, “to tie the strands of the mind together.” To spend time, each day, practicing yoga with intention and purpose. THOY makes it clear that yoga does not have to be asanas, it can simply be setting the mind on the intention of yoga… reading, meditating, drawing, asanas…

I now understand. There are at least 8 zillion ways to practice yoga. And what does a home practice look like for me?  It is different every day. I am learning. I guess that is why those who really “do” yoga call it practicing.