The easiest way to take yoga off-the-mat is to choose a few moments a day to be still. We may be familiar with this concept in different forms in our everyday life – count to ten before reacting, generally pause before responding to a question, embrace silences in conversations; for teachers, count to ten after asking a question. The stillness I strive for in my everyday life is this: I take ten minutes a day to be quiet and still, usually with a cup of coffee or tea, usually on my favorite big, comfy blue chair, usually when my husband isn’t around and bustling and interacting with me (but sometimes even when he is). I like it a lot in the mornings, pre-6 a.m., when the world feels secretive and most conducive to such activities. But if I can’t get it in then, between 3 and 5pm is a great time for me to do it (or repeat it), as those hours are the black hole of the day for me, where I do the fiercest battle with the forces of apathy, aimless snacking, ambling social media scrolling, and general bleakness. (We all have the difficult times of day for us –if you don’t know when yours are already, do some sketching out of your general patterns and moods – knowing and developing strategies for dealing with difficult day times for you is the best self-care work to be accomplished!)
Meditation, Dhyana, is the second-to-last (i.e., second-to-highest!) limb of yoga, and a tall order to do “fully.” I visited my mother, a lifelong yogi, in New Jersey recently, and we attended a meditation workshop at her neighborhood yoga studio. The talented, humorous, and longtime teacher, Dehlia (teaching yoga for over thirty years!) started the workshop by reminding us that most mortals don’t achieve what Patanajali meant by Dhyana in our lifetimes. Rather than be dampened by this limitation, we should strive for realistic strategies. The sixth and fifth limbs of yoga are more reachable, and more what we are talking about when we bandy about the word “meditate” in talking about our daily practices. The sixth is Dharana, which translates to something like concentration, and the fifth is Pratyahara, which translates to a retreat of the senses. My 10-minute sitting meditation is more like a combination of Dharana and Pratyahara and Pranayama (breathing practices, fourth limb). My process is this:
Distance self from devices.
Sit with warm beverage (can be on a yoga mat in Sukhasana, easy seated pose, but doesn't have to be).
Draw to mind a word, person, image to direct attention towards.
Engage in calming breath (even inhales and exhales) while musing on the chosen object (word, person, image).
This week I’ve been meditating on contentment, one of the Niyamas (personal observances, second limb of yoga). A joy of life: there is an endless list of beautiful realities to “meditate” on. You could even sit down without a particular object in mind, without a number 4 on the above list, and see what comes. Stillness is magical. Silence is magical. Our devices do a lot for us (content with and grateful for the computer on which I type this, the iPhone that tracks my runs and reminds me how to spell Dharana), but when it comes to happiness, stability, and self-reliance, stillness and detachment from devices do wonders, are indispensable. (Remember, we are running a Karma Yoga Discount until January 1st – if you do good for yourself or another, and then tell us about it, we’ll give you a free class to use yourself, or give to another. This 10-minute meditation is an example of good for yourself. Do it, and let us know.) I wish you some quiet and stillness this week, in whatever form.
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiperer, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come, come.