Books about yoga, meditation, My yoga teacher said...

Not now

I learned something new today. A cue to get your mind off of something, whether you’re fixated on the seven minutes you will be late getting to a meeting, or you’re trying to meditate. Whenever you are wondering, worried, or find your mind wandering, say to yourself: “Not now.”

You are going to be late, whether you worry or not. Bring yourself back to calm. “Not now.

Often in yoga, we say to focus on your breath to clear the head. But sometimes this becomes an overthinking about the breath. Not now. Don’t think about that now.

The technique was written about in Meditations on Intention and Being, by Rolf Gates, and my mentor gets 100% of credit for introducing this to me by reading the passage at the end of class today.

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About Savasana

About Savasana, pt. 2: Go ahead and skip it


Maybe you have to get back to work. Or your kid needs to be picked up. Maybe you have four hours to yourself for the entire week and feel like you have to keep moving. Maybe Savasana doesn’t feel good.

If you don’t enjoy it, or don’t have the time, fine. Skip it.

It’s a whole different thing to “do yoga” and skip savasana. And it’s fine.

I practiced yoga, off and on, for nearly 18 years (more off than on) before I gave myself enough time to ride Savasana out. Savasana is the Sanskrit word for what is sometimes Corpse Pose, which I wrote about in About Savasana, pt. 1.

So if it isn’t for you, don’t. It’s totally fine to practice yoga without Savasana.

A wise person once said, “Some parts of yoga, you just put over here, put them aside, and you might come back to it and you might not.” I’m paraphrasing but this is the kernel of it.

Whatever you get out of yoga, do that. Put the other stuff on the shelf.

About Savasana, meditation

About Savasana, pt. 1

As far as I can deduce, a typical yoga session boils down to three steps:

1. Breathing (Pranayama)

2. Movement or flow (Asana)

3. Rest and meditation (Savasana)
EDIT: this was originally a one-off post that evolved into a series about savasana. Read this, but read the retraction and further thoughts, too. 

There are infinite iterations of the above, and some days we focus on one or two of these things vs. the balance of the three, but we are always working up to Savasana.

Aka, “corpse pose.” This is where we seal in our practice. Empty the mind. Not focus. Personally, I don’t like the word corpse for this pose. Words I associate with corpse: heavy, end, final, haulted, bloated, decomposing, final, done.

In my mind, I call Savasana “float pose.” Like it sounds:

Shah – vah – sahn – ah
Words I associate with Savasana, or floating: light, free, flat, lifted, airy, clear, soft, open, beginning.

Perhaps this is a novice approach. Maybe I don’t understand Savasana. Maybe we all have a different understanding. In fact, some people skip Savasana altogether. I get it. That used to be me, spinning off and rushing to the next thing. But I embrace Savasana as the float. I’d rather start the next thing lifted, open, and light.

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.