Friday, January 7, 2011

Back to Basics

Everything is part of everything else, but when starting a yoga or meditation practice, it does help to narrow it down a little bit. Keeping some basic ideas in mind can invite a more relaxed attitude as we begin a new journey.

For me, yoga has a simple set of principles to begin: breath, alignment, awareness, kindness, curiosity.

Traditionally, the eight principles of yoga, in plain terms, include our relationships to the world around us (yamas) and to the self (niyamas), alignment (asana), breath (pranayama), concentration (cultivating awareness), withdrawal of the senses (developing non-attachment), meditation (interacting beyond dualistic understanding), and the integration of being beyond a separate self (bliss).

Let's be satisfied with whichever part of all this we can hold in our awareness. Start with the basics:
• paying attention to the breath, when you remember; and return to paying attention to the breath when you realize you have forgotten.
• attend to your alignment -- the way your bones stack to transfer weight to the earth and support your movements; and when you realize you have forgotten about your alignment, simply attend to the effects of that and make adjustments.
• cultivate awareness, allowing your breath to lead you in and out of your sensations, reactions, emotions, and postures. Let your mind help you by focusing one one thing at a time, developing the ability to focus by accepting that the lens slips and requires readjustment.
• be kind when you find you have shifted into remembering, replaying events, hollering at yourself, projecting possibilities, wishing things were different, going over things that take your attention away from right now. Just smile a little at your human nature and cultivate awareness of any pattern that might emerge in your internal ways of operating.
• take an interest, be curious, about how your body works, how your mind works, how your interactions and reactions rise and fall away.

Any and all of this will lead to all the rest of this, without you having to make a list or keep a chart or memorize Sanskrit names or learn physiology. Let the names become generalized, in fact, when you notice that you are drifting out of this moment, name the drift -- "drifting" -- or a bit more specifically "worrying" or "dreaming" -- and come on back to NOW. You can do this on a yoga mat. You can do this right at your desk, this minute. Or brushing your teeth.

May all the hoopla over 2011 simply open the path as you make your way.

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