Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sweet Centering, Sublime Savasana

Like many solitary, rural yogis, I fulfill my yoga-fix online.  Other than a handful of classes at local colleges, I’ve predominantly studied asana at the feet of a digital guru. You might call me a Youtube Yogini. Most days I’m contented with my practice. Feedback would be nice, but the flexible scheduling, almost limitless choice of sequences, and absence of witnesses suit my needs perfectly. The best videos combine accessible but challenging poses in creative sequences. The instruction is clear with a focus on anatomy and transitions… with a bit of Sanskrit scattered in between.

One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that most videos cut straight to the asana sequences. When they do focus on breathing and setting an intention, I find myself distracted. I struggle to breathe naturally when someone instructs me to breathe naturally. I can’t find my center when someone asks me to find my center.

So rather than following the instructor’s centering exercises, I find my mental comfy spot before I begin the video, and then I skip ahead to the asana sequence. This simple change has deepened my practice considerably, and I hope it can deepen your practice too.

Tips for sweet centering:

Rest your hands open on your knees. Palms turn up to welcome energy. Palms turn down to ground energy.

Breathe a few rounds of Ujjayi, then ignite your lungs with a round of  Kapalabhati. Breathing, ironically, is my biggest struggle in yoga. I tend to over think it, and then loose my rhythm. When I take a moment to breathe slowly, then quickly, I somehow sidestep that mental barrier. Kapalabhati just sounds, and feels, so crazy, my mind can’t help but relax.

Stretch out your neck, shoulders, hands, and feet.

Sing a mantra, chant, or healing song.

On the final round of your mantra, bring your hands, folded in prayer, to your heart. Open your eyes. Speak your intention, exhale, and begin your asana sequences.

It also helps to pause the videos occasionally. For example, I adore yogayak’s Grounding Afternoon Sequence, but that gal flies through her sun salutations. I need a minute or two to center after each salutation and I take it….with a click of the pause button.

Tips for a sublime savasana

Some videos include savasana at the end of their videos. Others encourage the viewer to take it on their own. Either way, turn off the video. If you’re impatient like me, dash into the kitchen and set the oven timer. It’s oddly liberating to sink into relaxation without having to guess when my time’s up or without listening to a digital guru breathing across the computer speakers.

If my mind’s still wild, I tame it with more singing. I know technically savasana is a self-contained pose, but I’d rather have a mindful, energetic experience than no experience at all.

The heart of yoga is a personal, moment-to-moment practice. When we rely on videos or pod casts to guide our practice, we must take time to modify them. Singing Tool in savasana may not be traditional, but it heals my mind, so I create space for the song. I create space for my own sublime experience instead of accepting a pre-packaged substitute.

Technology is the tool. The practice is individual. How do you modify your yoga? What other healing paths and sources of inspiration do you incorporate? How does your unique approach inform your practice?

Also: A wonderful take on the difference between savasana and meditation.

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