“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”
Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to describe yoga. Especially to new people who are asking questions about yoga. What is yoga? Will it help me lose weight? What do you do in a class? Why do you spend so much time teaching/studying/practicing?
When I first started thinking about how to describe yoga to people, my purpose was to come up with ways to “market” yoga and Iyengar Yoga. I wanted to help people find us, come to class, and introduce them to our practice.
I think about marketing sometimes. As a studio we depend on having students. Without students, there is no studio. And it is no secret that the practicalities of paying the rent, keeping the lights on, utilities and so forth are important considerations.
It is in the “marketing” of yoga where I get stuck. It’s hard to describe Iyengar Yoga to those who have not experienced it for themselves.
Of course, I could quote the benefits of yoga:
heal from injuries & chronic conditions.
I can cite articles with the scientific research backed by statistics on percentages of people who have achieved relief from pain and calmed their anxiety.
The usual attention-grabbing advertising words do not work here.
But there are benefits other than the surface ones. These are hard to describe.
Common advertising language has no words to describe yoga practice. Sure, the physical benefits attract people, but those who continue to practice over a period of months and years do so because the yoga gives them more than a healthy body.
Those who stick with it find something deeper. I could say “rich, deep, and profound.”
Even these descriptions fall far short of describing what yoga brings. Yoga is the ability to quiet the mind. It helps us provide a deeper experience of who we are — and we turn inward.
After 20 years of practice, I am just now starting to crave a deeper connection to myself…
Wanting to shift my attention inward. Wanting to focus less on the externals.
I have not always been interested in this.
It can be scary to go to an unfamiliar place. And spending time with myself and my ever-wandering mind has never souned appealing.
What will I find there? Maybe nothing. Maybe something I’d rather not see. Or maybe I can catch a glimpse of a new, less external (what am i wearing? how can I be fit?) way of living.
Inner connection has never been on my to-do list. Until now. And I can see that is a process — it comes in stages.
My first stage toward change has been to wish I wanted to.
And in the case of big changes, I am only capable of being willing to want to change.
These stages can last a very very long time before any real work happens.
I find myself in the middle of it now. Maybe you do too.
It helps to hear what others have to say on the subject.
Here’s what John O’Donohue, the Irish poet/philosopher says:
“The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you toward wisdom and holiness.” – O’Donohue
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” – Iyengar
And even if you can’t walk, you can do yoga.
I love this time of year because of all the holiday parties. My husband and I make the rounds to see friends and family, and an extended network of neighbors and acquaintances we’ve developed in our many years of living in Memphis.
There are some people that I see only at this time of year. It’s great to catch up and hear what people have been up to, and swap stories about the previous year.
Sometimes people want to talk about yoga.
There are several refrains that I commonly hear when I am out and about.
None of these things have anything to do with your ability to do yoga.
If you want to practice yoga, you will find a way.
You will try teacher after teacher until you find the one who is the right fit for you.
When people talk to me about yoga when we are just hanging out, I take that to mean that they are interested in it. Even when what they are saying is why they can’t do it.
If you have heard yourself (or a friend) saying any of the above, let’s talk.
Sometimes you have to overcome your “can’ts,” “nots,” and “never haves,” before you can find your “will, your “want to,” and your “must do.”
I’d love to help you find your way.
Her question made me chuckle — because unless you count eating an entire box of Thin Mints by myself in one sitting, I never even came close to becoming a Girl Scout!
But I was a G.A. The G.A.’s were our religious community’s version of the Girl Scouts. G.A. stands for “Girls in Action” — and a precisely accurate description of this busy girl (more about the ins & outs of G.A.’s another time).
The question concerning precision reminded me of my first Iyengar Yoga class – and my own teacher’s exacting instruction. I arrived at the classes ready to charge ahead and push through my limits.
But the classes stretched me in ways I had never considered. When I forged ahead in a frenzy from pose to pose, my teacher insisted that I stay at the pace she set for the class. I still hear her voice saying, “Leah, stay with us.”
I thought she was holding me back. But over time I learned that was not her intention at all. She was keeping me from getting ahead of myself.
Boy did this go against my grain!
Didn’t she know that I’m the one who put the whirling in the dervish? I had built a whole identity around earning gold stars by working fast and furious through school and beyond, wearing myself out, and moving on to the next thing.
With my teacher’s insistence and encouragement, I became open to trying a new way.
It eventually occured to me that my entire life I had met myself coming and going, but I had no idea how to stay with myself.
This realization had implications way beyond my yoga mat.
I knew how to set my sights on a goal. I’d start out with gusto — burning bright like a fiery comet. But I was always subject to the fizzle factor. I’d abandon myself at the first sign of trouble. Over-doing led to overwhelm led to over over-the-top anxiety levels, chronic stress-related illness and often some sort of burnout.
I had to learn how to pace myself so I could stay observant of my thoughts and actions. I had to learn how to listen to my body (still working on that one). I had to respect my limitations and uncover their hidden lessons.
The mention of the Girl Scouts piqued my curiousity, so I visited the Girl Scouts of America website.
Turns out that the Yoga Sutras are not that different in concept from the Girl Scouts’ values. Junior Girl Scouts even earn a special badge called “Practice With Purpose.” The award is earned by “setting a goal, increasing endurance, building strength, and practice, practice practice!”
The Girl Scout Promise is worth reading, and below are a few highlights from it.
I will “do my best to stay courageous and strong…and to take responsibility for what I say and do…to respect myself and others and to use my resources wisely.”
My time, attention and energy are among my most valued resources. Practicing yoga at a pace that allows for discipline, critical thinking and understanding is one of the many ways I stay with myself.
It isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s almost never easy – most things that contribute to our positive change aren’t.
The excitement of reaching for the stars might get me going. But it’s yoga’s exploration of inner space that keeps me moving toward true and lasting transformation.
In my world, the only alternative to aging is death.
With that in mind, getting older seems like a pretty good alternative.
So I am putting this out there as my official announcement.
I AM PRO-AGING!
This declaration does not come easy for me.
I’ve spent plenty of time, thought, energy and other resources trying to keep myself looking good as I move well into my 40’s.
Last week I got a phone call from a longtime out-of-town friend who is nearing 40.
He called to talk about his frustration with what he called “the whole work-out mentality.”
When I asked him what he was looking for in a physical or exercise discipline, he said an “anti-vanity” and “anti-self-loathing” practice.
He said he’s tired of all the emphasis on looks as if it were a competition. And tired of working out to make his body conform to some arbitrary definition of perfection.
I feel the same.
Like everyone else, I can find cringe-worthy flaws when I catch a surprise view of myself at a weird angle in the mirror.
So I’ve invented a few silly tricks to deal with the harsh reality of the fluorescent-lit retail fitting rooms mirrors. (Hint: use the mirror to look at yourself in the clothes, NOT to look at yourself from the back in your underwear!)
That’s a trick that works for me.
And I avoid certain situations that trigger self-loathing in me – like looking into magnifying mirrors or spending time with friends/family who comment on my latest pimple or skin tag.
I catch myself often. I hear an inner voice saying “I’m too this” or “I’m not enough that.” Then I stop and ask myself what is this self-judgement going to accomplish?
You could compare yourself to others’ standards of what’s acceptable at your age and what isn’t. But why don’t you join me in changing your inner conversation? Ask yourself you really want. What are you looking for?
Here are a few ways I answer this question:
I’m looking for the experience of feeling good in my body.
I’m looking to have the energy to do the things I love to do.
When I am with my friends and family I want to be myself.
I want to enjoy my activities as much as possible.
I want to pursue my life with passion and joy.
The above 5 things help me decide how I will spend my time.
If 60 minutes in a spinning class does not make me feel good in my body…if I have ‘friends’ who expect me to be prettier or thinner…if reading all the ‘right’ books bores me to tears…then FUHGEDDABOUDIT!
Life is too short.
I’ve considered my own death pretty seriously two times in my early life. In times of serious depression I’ve wondered if the world might be better off without me.
The end of my life would have been the ultimate anti-ager. I would have been dead at a young age — etched in everyone’s memory with nary a wrinkle or ounce of cellulite.
Why not end it all while you’re still looking young?
I’ll tell you why.
Because life after 20 and 30 and even 40 can be pretty damn good!
The crow’s feet and the (potential) jowls are a small price to pay for all the amazing experiences from each decade of my life.
This is why I am PRO-AGING!
Wayne Knerr is back in Memphis, and we are happy that he chose to locate his practice at EYC. Our studio renovation made it possible for Wayne to begin his practice here last month.
After practicing in Memphis for 17 years, Wayne moved to Boston in 2007 to study Oriental Medicine at the New England School of Acupuncture (NESA). He graduated from NESA in August with a Master’s Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Currently his skill set for pain management/mind-body interactions includes Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Visceral Manipulation, Intuitive Healing and Standard Process Nutritional Supplements.
Although he has passed Foundations, Biomedicine, and Acupuncture Point Board Tests that would allow him to practice in Tennessee, Wayne has elected for an Oriental Medicine license, which means that he will have one more board test to complete — the Chinese Herbology Test.
If all goes well, he expects to receive his license to practice acupuncture in December.
Contact Wayne for an appointment or for more information at 662-519-1287 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org