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What Are We Practicing Here, Anyway?

A cell phone goes off in the middle of shivasana.  What happens inside your head?  Are you annoyed?  Do you open your eyes and look around to see who the idiot was who didn’t shut off her phone before class.  Are you affronted that you were disturbed from your peaceful time by this digital clatter? 


Consider that the cell phone is part of your practice.  That it’s a teacher and a friend.  Consider that the ability to cultivate equanimity and peace while sitting cross-legged in a candlelit room with soft music playing doesn’t come in handy all that often.  The world is loud, and distracting, and intrusive.  In the outside world, where you really need them, those quiet rooms are hard to come by.  That’s why our vinyasa practice sets out to challenge you.  Its goal is to provide you with an opportunity to practice attaining that settled state when you’re under stress.  In class, we cultivate an artificial stress by holding ourselves in positions that challenge our strength, our balance, and our endurance, but the lessons translate directly to traffic, or bills, or deadlines, or arguments. 


When the leg we’re balancing on starts to shake, and our minds start to protest loudly, we train ourselves to reconnect with the positives.  There are other strong muscles that can help to support the weight.  Our breath is available to nourish the body and soothe the mind.  Our awareness can be widened to encompass all the elements of our situation, not just the physical body and certainly not just the left leg.  Through practice, you begin to see your effort in a broader context and options open up. 


In the same way, we can learn to take these techniques off of the mat and outside the studio.  Breath and awareness are just as effective in dissipating our reaction to a traffic jam or an argument as they are to the last ten seconds of a challenging balancing pose.  Eventually, everything that stresses you out or causes a strong reaction becomes an opportunity to practice.  That doesn’t mean that we never get mad, or frustrated, or passionate.  It just means that we’re fully aware of what we’re feeling and can channel the energy instead of being consumed by it.


Everything that happens can be part of your practice.



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