Listening for the moment, you’ll find it’s there.
Open a space in it with your breath.
We are swimming in time.
Don’t fall asleep.
Don’t forget to breathe.
Be a choir.
Be the pitch reverberating.
Be the blessed echo.
I used to think my yoga teachers were super heroes. Now that I teach, I’m constantly tempted to compare myself to them, and the comparisons are not always favorable to me.
I want to be like them because their work changed my life. Maybe even saved it. I know I’m not exactly the most with-it grownup on the block, but can you imaging where my life would be without yoga? I can’t.
At sixteen, I didn’t have the patience to just sit and be quiet. I was anxious about everything. My brain never quit chattering. I would regularly tear at my skin until I bled. And I hated everyone and everything. Yoga became the moving meditation that allowed me to find some quiet within myself. I have Janet to thank for that.
At twenty-seven, in a panic about the grey cubicle farm that was my daily life, I turned to yoga again, this time with a different need. I had learned to make peace with my body, but could I make peace with the rest of my life? This is when Elizabeth introduced me to the real power of the breath, which gave me the ability to be present in this moment. Notably, many of life’s worries drop away when you’re living in the present rather than stressing about the past or the future. I learned to work on my problems just like asanas — one moment at a time, letting the breath be my guide.
Now that I’m teaching, I wonder if I can give my students the same things my teachers gave me, and I don’t know the answer. Maybe it’s not my job to give my them precisely the same lessons but rather to introduce them to their own inner teacher. We honor certain great teachers with the title “guru,” but the true guru for each of us is the wisdom that lives within us. Finding that divine spark within yourself feels a lot like how I imagine super powers feel. Now, if only I could figure out how to give people that.
TATRA STHITAU YATNO’BHYĀSAH.
Of these two, effort toward steadiness of mind is practice.
Effort toward steadiness of mind. In other words, meditation.
Meditation can take many forms, such as the seated practice most people think of or more physical practices. Asana itself can be a moving meditation when we tune in to the body and the breath and make our focus single-pointed. Meditation can be done in the form of walking, singing, chanting, and even eating. Anything you do can be a form of meditation if you are practicing with your entire awareness.
Bonus: Here’s a simple meditation practice you can work with to get started.
Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Sit up straight but without too much effort or strain. Close your eyes, and pay attention to your breath. Begin counting your breath — each complete round of breath is one count. Inhale, exhale: one. Inhale, exhale: two… and so on.
Attempt to focus strictly on your breath and the counting until you reach ten. If your mind wanders to other topics, start over. If you’re being honest, chances are good that you’ll have to start over several times. Remember: Thinking about how great you’re doing counts as thinking. Start over.
This exercise is simple, yet challenging and serves to show you just how much our minds tend to wander! Practice it a few times this week, and next week we’ll answer the question on everyone’s mind: When do we get to be enlightened?
Lately, I’ve become really passionate about getting people to meditate. As a yoga teacher, I often have students who just want a workout, and while I know it’s so important to take good care of our bodies, the real purpose in my yoga practice is to create peace, and meditation is an extraordinary tool for doing just that.
This short meditation can be especially beneficial right after a yoga practice or any kind of workout because exercise helps to calm the mind, which allows us to meditate, but you can practice it absolutely any time.
If you’re comfortable with this technique, you can extend the meditation for as long as you like.