om gam yoga

Melbourne yoga instruction by Sophie Langley

Tag: stillness

Too many things

Last week I finished a masters degree that I’ve been doing on and off now for four years. It’s a degree that I’ve enjoyed immensely at times, and loathed at others, but that, overall, I’m so glad to have done.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself when I finished. I guess I expected some relief, and maybe some sadness. But actually what I’ve ended up with is a kind of confusion about what to do now, and about a million suggestions from within my own mind about how to manage that confusion. Since Thursday (the day of my last class), I’ve had this odd excitable (bordering on manic, actually) energy.

“Energy”, when your day job is teaching people yoga, is a troublesome word to use. When I say it, people sometimes look at me strangely, thinking, I suppose, that I might start talking to them about hippy-dippy energy healing or something. I do know (and respect) people who work in that kind of therapeutic field, but when I use that word, I’m aware of those links, but that’s not really what I mean. I’m just talking about the feeling that tells you whether you’re tired or sluggish, or likely to burn through a long To Do list in five minutes flat. And for the last few days, my energy has been the latter. Well, it would be if I could only pin it down long enough to focus on something.

Yesterday morning I half-made myself three separate breakfasts because I couldn’t focus long enough to decide what I wanted. I made plans for some exciting stuff happening later in the hear, I did some reading for some writing work I’m about to start, and i planted some new green-leafy stuff in my garden. Today I made pies for some friends for afternoon-tea-lunch, but I also made a loaf of bread and a bunch of other small things. And walked around in circles in the kitchen because I kept forgetting what I was doing. Tonight I’ve started no less than four writing projects, some small, others not so. I’ve started reading about three different books since Thursday.

As I wonder which of these various projects I’ve started will actually get off the ground, I’m reminded of this talk on the paradox of choice. Because right now I feel a little like that’s what finishing uni has left me with—too much choice (yes, I know: first world problem).

I worry too that at some point I’ll crash, because that’s usually what happens for me. In fact, I’m a little surprised it hasn’t already. What I would love to learn is how to sit still with this energy and just watch it, but I so often feel like I need to use it while it’s there. I wonder how much that feeling is dependent on the pattern of energy-burn-crash-energy-burn-crash, and if I could learn to even it out a little.

This is why I do yoga. Focus. Learning to sit still. Learning to do nothing. (Which, incidentally, is what my essay in this lovely book is about.) Or, at the very least, to be aware of what’s going on and try to work with that. I wonder if it’s something I’ll ever be good at.

~
This is cross-posted on my writing blog.

Stillness

Stillness is not the absence or negation of energy, life, or movement. Stillness is dynamic. It is movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced wherever there is total, uninhibited, unconflicted participation in the moment you are in—when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing. ~ Erich Schiffmann ‘Yoga: the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness’

I must’ve read this paragraph at least ten times over the last two years. It still strikes me every time. Stillness, on the rare occasion we manage to get it right, is dynamic. I love that idea.

Yoga and Resolutions

Sydney yoga is interesting in January: classes are busier; summer deals at various yoga schools allow students to try out classes they might not otherwise or attend more classes than they usually would; yoga rooms are steamy with the sticky Sydney summer weather and extra bodies. There’s a sense of expectation in many Sydney yoga classes – and no doubt in other classes that involve moving your body around.

The expectation, perhaps, is that this year will be the one; it will be the year in which people will get fit and healthy, be kinder, and take more care of themselves and the world around them.

At the breaking of the new year, many of us make resolutions about the areas of our lives we’d like to improve. I’ve never been big on new year’s resolutions. But this year, in trying to decide between the two or three options I had for celebrating the beginning of 2011, I found myself thinking about what this ‘New Year’ business is really about.

Putting all the celebrations and fireworks aside, marking the new year is about letting go of things that have passed, and looking forward to things that might be. In the northern hemisphere, New Year’s Eve occurs at around the same time as the Winter Solstice. This is a time where people in some cultures perform rituals to figuratively rid themselves of the things they no longer want in their lives, so that there is space for the things that they do want.

Of course, we could do this any day of the year, but there’s something nice about collectively moving on, and that process coinciding with the beginning of a new year.

Heading back to work, school and normal life after the holiday period, however, it can be difficult to integrate our plans, be they humble or grand. Regular life for many of us is busy – I know for myself that rushing between the various yoga classes I teach each week, the writing projects I’m working on, and keeping up with the administration required to run a small business, the end of each week comes around quickly, and usually with far too many things left on my To Do list.

We need savasana after a yoga class to allow the benefits of the practice to be fully integrated into our minds and bodies. For this reason, the final relaxation is perhaps the most important part of the class – even though it might seem like you’re just lying there. Similarly, if we want to make changes in our lives, we need to allow ourselves some stillness in which the desire for change can become motivation to move towards actually making that change.

“Perhaps the simplest and most profound practice for deactivating old patterns,” say Mary and Rick NurrieStearns – a pyschotherapist and yoga teacher, and meditation teacher respectively, “is taking the time to be still and quiet. Sitting down and doing nothing gives you a chance to unwind and let your mind relax. You literally stop moving long enough to get your bearings, to see where you are and what’s going on.”

At this time of year especially then, it’s important we allow ourselves to take some quiet time if there are changes we’d like to see in our lives. A slow walk through the local park has always helped me, as has sitting quietly with a cup of tea for ten minutes.

The NurrieStearns suggest sitting quietly and noticing the small space between your breaths. Notice the pause, however brief, before and after your exhale. Similarly, they say, you might sit and notice the gap between your thoughts. Some days the gap between your breaths and thoughts will be very brief, perhaps almost imperceptible. Other days you might notice a longer pause.

Of course, if you’ve been meaning to for a while, now might be a good time to take advantage of one of the many deals that Sydney yoga schools are offering – and allow yourself to really enjoy the stillness of the final relaxation.