Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I've had a bit of a life block lately. It's like writer's block only more broadly blocking. My mind is everywhere at once. I spin around and around chasing my tail and then sink into bed, exhausted.

The irony of this is that in the last several weeks I started doing Hatha yoga. I go to classes in which I try to breathe like the ocean while striving to get into one pose or another. It's great. I really like it. My mind turns to breathing, balance, alignment, the tightness in my right shoulder, the stretch in my hamstring. Everything else clears away.

The instructors say beautiful things. There is a pose called Tree pose in which you balance on one foot with your other foot pressed against the standing leg with your hands pressed together in front of your chest. Last week P said, "Don't feel bad about wobbling while you stand. This is Tree pose and trees sway in the wind."

Besides the poetry, the instructors keep you honest. They put everyone in a pose and talk to you while walking around the room inspecting everyone. Pushing here or lifting there so that you REALLY feel it. I sweat and shake trying to actualize the images they encourage me to visualize. Muscles wrapping around bone, drawing up thighs, pushing down the tailbone, opening up the ribcage, energy shooting out from my fingers and feet like a star.

When you buy a new yoga mat you have to break it in with much washing to get the factory finish off of it. Until that happens, it's pretty slippy. Added to that I break into a sweat with the slightest movement or when holding a difficult pose. Most noticeably, the hands and feet. So while I am trying to break in my newly purchased yoga mat I lift up into downward facing dog feeling my hands slide forward and my feet slide backward in a mild panic that I will end up belly flopping onto the floor.

I finally understand the body hugging yoga clothes too. It keeps you from flashing body parts at the class while doing inversions. And allows the instructor to see what you are actually doing.

My parents call this my souvenir from Beijing. CE is a total yoga nut. It is her workout of choice and she also finds it centering. And on her recommendataion I thought I'd try it too. It quiets my mind. Although afterwards the thoughts go Brownian. Maybe I'm not doing it right.

Beyond (or aside from) crazy poses, yoga is for many, a spiritual journey. I wonder to where? and to what?

There are other paths of yoga as well that take you on this journey by a different path and while they are classically practiced one way I like to think that I know people who are right now practicing them in their own way.

Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. Devotion of the lover to the Divine as beloved. Which we practice in acts of devotion to our partners or our children or our friends or our family.

Jnana yoga, the yoga of wisdom. Which my Dad practices with his books and study trying to see the world in a way that others don't.

Karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action. My Guy practices this form of yoga several hours a day.

Raja yoga, the "royal" yoga. The yoga that reveals the king within each of us. Some of us have certainly found it in ourselves and have only to look to see it in others.

Mantra yoga, the yoga of sound. We tend to use mantras of negation: "oh shit, oh shit." But we could use positive ones too.

My saying all of this probably reflects how little I understand about yoga. But that's okay. I just got started.

Some instructors start the class by having you each choose an intention. You devote your yoga practice that day to this intention and at the end of the practice you seal that intention to take it with you for the rest of the day.

R at Yoga Yard would at the end of class share with us an intention to have words, thoughts, and acts that are clear and compassionate. I think I will take that as the intention I dedicate my practice to this and next week.



At 8:46 AM, March 09, 2006, Blogger MomVee said...

Yes, I'm cheating. But I gave up so many things and I think I'm doing quite well...anyway, what I wanted to say was I always feel the most prosaic, physical pronouncements in yoga class have a spiritual application (like the tree comment). And I took yoga in the same room where I had taken modern dance years before, so there was an echo of the same dialogue, which basically boils down to this. MV: I can't do that, I'm very assymetrical, my body doesn't go that way. Instructor: Yes. That's why you have to try.

At 2:35 PM, March 09, 2006, Blogger ergo said...

momvee: I am such a secular dope that only yesterday did I realize that it's Lent. Hats off to you for giving up the tough stuff.

Love the yoga story.

At 1:33 PM, March 11, 2006, Blogger Lever said...

afterwards the thoughts go Brownian

LOL That's so true... and not being a scientist I even recognised and visualised the Brownian motion so vividly... now, if only I could be so vivid with the flame & the void...

I like breathing, it's a really great feeling - and remembering, even just for 5 minutes, to sit with my back straight at the desk is like my chairmic yoga ;)

At 9:16 AM, March 12, 2006, Blogger Sassy said...

I did yoga for about a year and a half before the YMCA started making their members pay extra to do it. One day I will do it again (i.e. when I have more funds). Not only do I love that I was able to touch my toes, but it made me more aware of my body, not just during yoga, but throughout the days in between, shoulders back, bum tucked under, head in line with your back. And even though I've stopped doing yoga, those little things have stayed with me...

Anyways, your post was nice!

At 5:58 PM, March 13, 2006, Blogger Jay said...

I have always wondered if there was a way to switch off my mind - you have just convinved me to give this a try.

At 7:18 PM, March 13, 2006, Blogger Kat E said...

I have some yoga videos that I do once in a while, and I've been to 1 or 2 classes. I really like it, and wish I could find a way to work in in regularly. Good for you for doing so--keep it up and keep writing about it, you have interesting things to say about it. (I loved the thing about tree pose!)

At 5:09 PM, March 14, 2006, Blogger ergo said...

lever: chairmic yoga sounds like an excellent idea. Maybe someone has put together a series of chair based yoga asana. =)

sassy: thanks! I totally do the shoulder back, stomach in, bum tuck thing too. =)

miss jay: It's worth a try. The brain needs a break sometimes.

kat e: I'm hoping to stick with it. So far, so good.

At 3:47 PM, March 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the way that you are able to see Yoga in those around you. Check out the practice of Yoga Nidra which involves deep relaxation and Sankalpa (a stated intention.) There are excellent C.D.'s available of Yoga Nidra.


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