Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


Leave a comment

The Quiet Pose: A Silent Practice

Yoga studios are quiet places. Instructors might complement the class with music but for the most part the sounds you hear are verbal instruction and the rhythmic pranayama of the class.

The quiet allows for focus. Without the distraction of conversation, computers, TV, traffic, and electronics the practitioner can begin to hear what the body is asking for and meet those needs. It also presents an opportunity to observe to one’s own thoughts. The quiet allows for meditation.Benefits-of-meditation-2

I find in my life, quiet and silence are often hard to come by or challenging to attain. At home I listen to talk radio constantly. I go from task to task through out the day listening to disembodied voices discuss the world. I am always listening to other people’s ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. Similarly, I know people who always have music playing and people who always have a TV on in the background. We all know people who constantly have their noses in their phones. This external noise blocks the mind’s internal chatter.

All of these distractions are a staple of modern living. However, we should take time to be silent and let those easily drowned out internal voices and feelings have their moment.

For a long time I did not want to try meditation. I was intimidated by the idea of “clearing my mind.” I thought I was expected to stop my thoughts. What I didn’t understand was: Meditation is not the absence of thought. It is the observation of thought. Observation without judgement and reaction.

imagesThat is the tricky bit for me…without judgement and reaction. The initial challenge for me was to step away from my thoughts and emotions and just observe. Through yoga, I gradually learned this delicate and subtle skill. As I began to grasp the concept, it became easier. Quotation-Osho-existence-meditation-Meetville-Quotes-189437If you do meditate, terrific. If you have before and wandered away from the practice, go back. If you have never meditated, try it. If you would like to have a better understanding click here and here.

Wherever you might be in your practice, allow for quiet in your life. Turn off the computer, phone, TV or whatever is buzzing, beeping or flashing. Let your environment be quiet. Settle into silence and see what happens.


Leave a comment

Meditate on This: The Most Imortant Pose

When I first practiced yoga, I was annoyed with savasana.  I could not wrap my mind around laying still for close to 20 minutes with all the things I needed to accomplish in a day.  As a result, I was missing a huge point. ShavasanaThe purpose of the asanas is to arrive at perhaps the most important pose, savasana (corpse pose). A place where the mind settles as the body rests and there is a natural transition into meditation. Just to drive home the importance of the pose, here is a list of its benefits:

  • a decrease in heart rate and the rate of respiration,
  • a decrease in blood pressure,
  • a decrease in muscle tension,
  • a reduction in general anxiety,
  • a reduction in the number and frequency of anxiety attacks,
  • an increase in energy levels and in general productivity,
  • an improvement in concentration and in memory,
  • an increase in focus,
  • a decrease in fatigue, coupled with deeper and sounder sleep, and
  • improved self-confidence.

Savansana allows us to detach, regroup and reset physically and mentally.

Students at a Sankrit School in daily practice

Students at a Sankrit School in daily practice

Often western culture places a low value on down time.  There is pride in the ability to hustle and power through without much thought to what is missed without real rest.

In 5th grade, I had an unfortunate incident related to this exact concept.  During home room, there was always a math exercise posted on the board.  We were instructed to spend our free time working on that until the bell rang and attendance was called.  It was never collected or graded.  It was an activity to keep us busy and the classroom quiet. I rarely completed it.  I chose to spend that time staring out the ground floor window at the suburban morning that was unfolding outside of our school.  I loved the few minutes before the bell rang  and our bustling day began. Sitting silent and staring, I remember wishing I could hop out the window and lay down in the large rolling lawn and stare at the clouds.

3893491292_4fd5c3d088

One morning mid-trance I heard my name being barked from the front of the room.  I turned to see Mrs. D’s trim, imposing figure at her desk, beckoning me towards her with the crook of her finger.

When I arrived at her desk, she leaned in close, treating me to the distinct smell of coffee and something rotten on her breath.

Her sharp pale eyes drilled into me as she asked, “Do you know what you are?”

I don’t remember having a response, except a sickening twist in my gut.

“You are a dreamer.” She sneered loud enough for my classmates to hear. Her tone implying that this was not a good thing. “I see you staring out that window every morning. You do nothing.” mean-19025194883_xlarge She paused dramatically, surveying the classroom, nodding as if this was a consensus, then leaned back in, “You’ve got your head in the clouds and it’s not going to get you anywhere.”

Looking back, it is no great mystery why I dreamed of hopping out of that classroom window.

At the time, I didn’t have the back bone or the independence to stand up to Mrs. D’s berating. I assumed, given her position of authority and her seemingly expert status on things such as 5th grade math and social studies, that she was right and I was headed down a road to ruin.

Terrified and humiliated, I committed to “keeping my eye on the ball” and “cracking down” by completing the free time math exercises.

Scurrying back to my seat, I was determined to tamp down my dreamer tendencies.

I quickly discovered that was nearly impossible.  The anxiety around the free time math exercises held a tight grip on my brain. I was terrified those eagle eyes would catch me dreaming again. The figures I scratched down on my scrap paper seemed shifty and elusive. In those few minutes before the bell each day, my gaze and my mind wandered outside again and again.  However, the delight had been drained from my morning reprieve.

Mrs. D was right.  I was a dreamer. I spent the rest of that year in the dark shadow of her disappointment.

As a former teacher, I am furious with that woman.  As a yogini, I am equally impressed by my 5th grade discovery of morning meditation.  I would like to gather up my 10-year-old self in my arms and tell her Mrs. D was unfair and possibly dealing with some emotional issues of her own. meditate_istock_000016078540smallI am happy to report I have moved on from the incident, but there are times when I do battle with my own internal Mrs. D. I have had stretches of time where I run myself into the ground striving to feel accomplished or silently shamed myself for low productivity.

It’s my yoga practice that allows me to reflect on these moments and find balance.

To put the importance of meditation in perspective, think of the daily global effort made to secure time to recharge cell phones, ipads, and lap tops.

Shouldn’t that same priority be placed on finding time to recharge our minds and central nervous systems?

I like to envision a world where everyone can silence their internal Mrs. D and carve out even 5 minutes a day to meditate.

I would love to know your favorite method of meditation.  How do you fit it into your day? Do you have a meditative activity that allows you to recharge? What are your challenges to finding that time?

Take a moment and share out in the comments below.