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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My YTT, Yoga on The Farm

Starting small, planning, growing

A force that pushed me to yoga teacher training, and drives me to write about yoga, is the desire to share yoga with “non yoga people.” To clarify, yoga is for everyone! But it isn’t obvious to everyone how to find class or teacher that fits their needs and style, and booking a class in a traditional yoga studio can be intimidating. As with so many things, “fit” matters.

Within days of sharing my mission, a member of my local community offered space on their developing farm for me to teach yoga while I am in training. We have become friends, and I have been visiting the farm to get a feel for the space. There are chickens, cats, and a Labrador named Scout. There is a pond, relatively flat and clean grass, and a barn with a fridge, sink, and bathroom. It’s perfect.

Growing up in Maine, I spent my fair share of time on farms, and countless glorious hours outdoors. I treasure my connection with the land, and am thrilled to have this opportunity to teach plein air, to borrow the artist’s term.

Starting small and familiar feels right to me, because connecting to the land, to my students, matters. I am developing a five class summer series for the farm, and inviting a few friends to join me. Yoga is about practice, and I am grateful for this space and the support of my friends on this journey. Who knows where this will lead?

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.