I spent this past weekend with Sara Powers who is the founder of Insight Yoga. Sara and her husband Ty have been leading yoga classes and workshop for many, many years, and although I had not yet had the opportunity to study with her in person, I had been familiar with her through her video “Insight Yoga.” As the only yoga video with which I like to practice, it felt like re-meeting an old friend when I walked into to take her workshop.
Sara Powers has set her heart and mind to the integration of yoga, meditation and transpersonal psychology. So to spend a weekend with her, was an experience focused within, on the prospect of “being in yoga”, rather than of “doing yoga.” And what a pleasant prospect it was.
As everyone knows who reads this sporadic blog, my focus has always been on “living yoga,” whether it occurs on the mat or hopefully even beyond the mat. Thus to spend a weekend focused inward, breathing our way into the deepest parts of ourselves, was a great blessing. I will admit however, that I am not so adept at being still for such long periods of time. Not only did my body shout out its discomfort, but my brain was also busy, sending me all sorts of messages.
And yet that was what we were there to do. Become aware of the ramblings of the brain. We sat meditation before and after asana practice. We practiced meditation in the asana practice. In fact, yoga with Sara is meditation in stillness and in motion. Our work in meditation was not to shunt away the messages of the brain but rather to become “mindful” of them. Instead of noting a thought and saying “I see you now go away,” we were to acknowledge the thought and follow it. By allowing ourselves to follow a thought, we engage in a process of self-acknowledgement, and self-affirmation. It becomes liberating to enter this process, and a bit entertaining. For example, here is just one of the thought trains that I followed…
“Breathe in to the hara. Awareness of breathing into the hara. Am I thinking my breath? Am I focusing on my breath? Am I focusing too much on my breath? Am I distracting myself from my breath? Am I really meditating? Mindfulness… What happens if I spend the whole time analyzing the focus of my breath? Will I no longer be practicing mindfulness? Follow a thought … There are no thoughts … How did I do that? Oops, there is a thought. My thighs are beginning to hurt … Should pay more attention to hip openers, or maybe I should pay more attention to closed hip positions … how to teach this balance … Are my students getting it? How can I serve them better”
Okay, you get the idea. Not only did my mind search around for things to latch onto, but under it all, was a common thread of “am I good enough?” And I doubt I am the only one out there who is constantly filled with self-doubt. But that is the power of a mindfulness practice. We can see how often we go to these places, and by doing so disempower those voices of self-doubt. Recognizing our communal need for love and affirmation, and the collective tendency towards self-doubt, we in turn become more accepting and nurturing as individuals and as community.
Now that is pretty darn cool.
So, take some time (ten minutes) to sit in contemplation of your thoughts. Acknowledge them for what they are. Enjoy the process. Enjoy letting go. Live your yoga.
Shalom & Namaste,