So, I did something that I was inspired to try from YouTube and Instagram videos depicting yoga practitioners practicing with music. They all looked like they were moving with ease and the poses were just flowing. So, tonight while my dinner was cooking, I put on two songs by my favorite band, Counting Crows, and practiced. A flow of half sun salutations, full salutations, lunges and squats happened and it felt nice; it felt good. This might be a new thing for me. Oh, and the songs were Palisades Park and Earthquake Driver.
I have been meditating regularly for almost a year. My usual meditation routine occurs in the morning. I sit on my bed with my back against the wall, and set the timer on my phone for 10 minutes. I focus on my breath; because my mind is going so many places, I mentally say “in” on the inhale and “out” on the exhale. Sometimes it helps with the mind, sometimes it does not help. When I am finished, I cannot help but feel peaceful, even if I had to constantly bring my focus back to the breath.
I think meditation is like being friends with yourself. Thoughts are coming, the mind is doing what the mind does, and you are just sitting, bring your focus back to the breath, the mantra, etc., and you are not reacting. You are sitting with yourself.
Each meditation experience is different, sometimes I feel, what I think is, energy flowing in my forearms. It is such a nice feeling. Meditation, I get it.
Here are some meditation quotes, some I made up, some I have read.
“Meditation — Don’t leave home without it.” – me
“Make friends with yourself — Meditate.” – me
“Don’t hate, meditate.” – numerous Facebook posts
“If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.” – Ani Pema Chodron
“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are.” Ani Pema Chodron
“After a few years of meditation practice we can even learn how to occasionally ignore ourselves. And what relief that can be!” – Wes Nisker
“All of man’s difficulties are caused by his inability to sit, quietly, in a room by himself.” – Blaise Pascal
Well, it has been a long time since I have written a word on this blog.
Here are some “yoga” discoveries while I was missing (in no particular order):
- The nickname my nieces gave me;
- Hugs from co-workers (especially when you need them);
- Kindness of strangers;
- Reiki circles;
- My cat’s veterinarian;
- The songs of Jason Darling;
- Counting Crows concerts (best fans ever);
- Counting Crows Facebook group;
- Friends I met from Counting Crows Facebook group;
- Podcasts from JBrownYoga (are you still practicing when you listen to a podcast about yoga?)
- The songs of Butch Parnell;
- Reading The Art of Happiness;
- Teaching yoga to children;
- Yoga with Adriene (youtube channel).
One of my favorite films this year was Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater. It is an intimate film about a boy and his family, following him when he was a child and ending when he enters college. The film was shot every few weeks over a 12-year period, with the same actors. It is simply a film about humanity, what it means to be human.
Impermanence is a big part of the film, things change, parents divorce, remarry, divorce, remarry, divorce; people get new jobs, people move to different homes, etc. Love is always there, despite the changes the boy faces in his family. Boyhood reminds me of yoga; yoga teaches us not to get attached even if you nailed that handstand. Yoga helps us understand ourselves better so we can be more present and aware. We are asked to explore what is happening in our bodies and minds during poses and to be aware, and accepting, of these feelings.
I think we can learn a lot from Boyhood, just be present in your life, with your loved ones.
(Photo courtesy of http://www.imdb.com)
When I first started practicing yoga, I heard the above phrase repeated many times, many different ways — the mat supports you, feel supported by the mat, this is your support, etc. I never fully understood how the mat supports us during our yoga practice. For me, the yoga mat is a safe place, a place where I feel strong (even with a few child’s poses) and whole.
It was not until I listened to a podcast by Judith Hansen Lasater, yoga teacher and a physical therapist, about doing a 20 minute savasana each day. She is also known as THE restorative yoga teacher in the United States. She states that she wishes she could make everyone do a 20 minute savasana each day. She also states that the body can only heal if it is at rest. She also describes the stages that we enter into during savasana, explaining why it has to be 20 minutes.
So, I have been doing a 20 minute savasana after my home practices, and I now understand how the mat supports us. I feel my body melt into the mat; I am not sure how long it is, but my legs and arm feel like I am stuck to the mat. Each time I do a 20 minute savasana, I have a different experience, but always I feel this support from the mat, like it is holding me. This feeling of support is there even when I feel like my mind is racing. There is such a peaceful feeling in my body.
I am waving a magic wand, and recommend a 20 minute savasana, whether or not a yoga practice is part of your life. Just lie down on a mat or blanket, eyes closed — an eye pillow is nice but not necessary — and be still for 20 minutes. I use a timer because I am not sure what 20 minutes feels like. Please feel free to share your experiences with me.
Here is the podcast mentioned above:
(Photo courtesy of http://www.womenshealthmag.com)
Mountain Pose — the starting pose for all standing poses. I feel like I am doing this pose when I do plank as well. It promotes good posture and is grounding for the body and mind. This pose also promotes smiling, there is a subtle smile that happens on your face when you stand or sit up tall. Try it now, slouch and get sit or stand tall, do you feel the smile that happens on your face?
1. Stand with your feet either hip width apart (to find your hip distance, place two fists between your feet) or feet can be close together, whatever feels good for you. Breathe.
2. Lift your toes, pressing them down, lift the inner and outer edges of the feet, pressing them down, and feel your feet securely on the mat. Breathe.
3. Imagine your body feeling strong and still like a mountain. Breathe.
4. Engage the muscles in your legs; be careful not to lock your knees. Belly button pushes into spine, shoulders back, feel an opening in the chest; head is relaxed, arms by sides with palms facing forward. Breathe.
5. And breathe. You can even close your eyes if you like.
Things I notice when I do Mountain Pose, I feel like my body is getting a hug, and because the muscles are engaged, I have to stay still. I like to do this pose while I wait for the subway and see how long I can do it for; I think this is one of the hardest yoga poses.
Chants for Children:
I am mountain, tall and strong, nothing can make me fall. (And then you are the wind with your breathe and blow them over, Little Flower Yoga training).
Touch your nose, touch your cheek Mountain Pose
Touch your head, touch your needs, touch your toes, Mountain Pose.
Touch your shoulders, touch your nose, touch your belly, touch your toes, Mountain Pose (this chant go be shorter or longer).
As mentioned in a previous post, I am receiving training on Conscious Discipline, a social/emotional and classroom management curriculum implemented by my school. The recent training was about encouragement and the “power of unity” (Chapter 2, Conscious Discipline) creating a sense of belonging for the children in their school community. Secure relationships help us grow and motivate us to learn and help each other. Neuroscience is showing us that our brain operates better when we feel safe and encouraged.
Yoga teaches us that we are all connected. We live to help and care for each other. When practicing yoga, whether in a yoga class or solo, more space is created in the body through asanas and breathing. The body is restored to balance, and one cannot help by feel a little better than he/she felt before practicing. When people feel better, we are better able to care for ourselves and nurture our relationships.
There is scientific evidence to support the “power of unity” (Chapter 2, Conscious Discipline). My knowledge of science is based on The Big Bang Theory, the CBS sitcom, not the actual theory. Einstein explained unity “not as something that must be contrived, but as our basic nature that needs to be supported (Chapter 2, Conscious Discipline). Chapter 2 also cites experiments done by Faraday and Maxwell involving “involving billiard balls colliding”, thereby proving that “one packet of energy (quantum) creates a ‘condition’ in the space around it so that other quantum, when present feels a force” (Chapter 2, Conscious Discipline). Our energy affects others.
With this understanding that we affect each other, Conscious Discipline asks for a change in classroom management, specifically cooperation among the school community (teachers, students, administrators, parents, etc.) I think cooperation among the school community creates a positive environment, helping each person discover and enhance their self-worth and importance. Children are encouraged to help each other. Yoga encourages us to get on the mat every day; it becomes more about nailing the pose, and more about the need to feel better in the body and mind.
Encouraging children play an important role in creating such an environment, ranging from praising children in a way that is non-judging and redirecting them to make better choices, noticing the positive behavior and not the negative. We all want to be noticed; from my experience as a special education teacher, children will get your attention anyway they can, negatively or positively, it doesn’t matter, the attention matters to them. I think this approach helps teachers accept the child for who he/she is and what he/she needs.
“Acceptance is the cornerstone of unconditional love” (Chapter 2, Conscious Discipline). Yoga teaches us to accept ourselves and accept each other.
Oh, Dr. Becky A. Bailey, creator of Conscious Discipline, I am looking forward to learning more about your program.
For more detailed information about this chapter and better explanations of the science information, please see Conscious Discipline, 7 Basic Skills, Brain Smart Classroom Management.