“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
“Can I do it?” you ask.
The answer is usually one of 4 things:
I don’t know.
The problem with asking “Can I?” is that it implies that there is a simple answer.
But a quest for personal growth & change can bring more questions than it does answers.
While “can I” can be an important thing to consider, there is another question that has given me more fulfillment in my practice. That question is:
“How can I?”
This shift in thinking comes straight out of my Iyengar Yoga learnings over the years.
It acknowledges I am looking toward change/growth.
It reminds me that I am not just “going for it” or “giving up.” I am seeking to improve.
The “can I” question makes things seem too pat. And they are not.
BKS Iyengar’s work illustrates that there is always a how.
In the how, we are encouraged to be curious and interested about our challenges. We are asked to challenge our judgements about what is possible. We can shift beyond judgement about what we can and cannot do. We get creative about what we might try now.
This kind of exploration leads to small steps toward what we are looking at. And any small step toward something put in front of us is one step closer than before.
Small steps add up to big changes.
Changes over time will lead to transformation.
This is precisely why I choose to study/practice Iyengar Yoga.
Yoga teaches us to go beyond the resignation of “I can’t.” Yoga moves us past “I can,” as we are asked to improve ourselves rather than maintain our status quo.
How can I grow at a pace that feels right for me at this time?
How can I work hard and let go of the outcome?
How can I keep moving forward when things seem to be at a standstill?
How can I keep from sliding backward into complacency?
How can I create more time to do the things I really want to do?
Creativity is required. The possibilities are endless.
I have found that these questions are a never-ending process that always takes me to a better place. Contemplating just one of these questions leaves me feeling stronger, positive, and more content.
I love that Iyengar Yoga practice moves me to a fresh perspective and a new part of life to explore
He said, “I’m a beginner. I’ve seen the sign for a few months now, and finally decided to come.”
He said he and a colleague he works with talked it over and decided to give it a try. He came (and has been coming for a few weeks now). But she hasn’t come…yet.
It makes me wonder what makes some people ready, and others take longer to decide and to take action.
It takes courage to show up for something new. Courage, readiness — and a few other magic ingredients.
No one ever talks about the stages of making a decision to start something new. With so much pressure to “just do it, ” no one extols the virtues of indecision.
But I’m here to tell you are some! (Yep…I’m from that alien anti-just-do-it world of yes-no and stay-go.)
You’re undecided now, and what are you going to do? (yep, that’s how the song goes!) Or, maybe you’re different…but I spend way more time getting ready to be ready than actually being ready.
I got real tired of the bad rap I was always giving myself for not being ready to go-for-it, bite-the-bullet, and make-stuff-happen.
But my frown turned upside down the day I finally decided to embrace my decidedly indecisive nature. I felt a lot better, and that was enough for me.
Then I learned there is science to back me up on this.
I have found that trying something new is like that for me. If I change anything, I usually think about it for a long while before I actually do anything.
Change is never really an event. It’s more a process that unfolds over time.
And the indecision period where you are just contemplating doing something is often overlooked. But I think it’s the most important part. You’re undecided now, and what are you going to do?
I thought it was just me, but it turns out…
It turns out, some very smart people have done some research on this very topic, and given it a fancy scientific name: The Transtheoretical Model or TTM (Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross)
Here are the stages of change:
Not ready (precontemplation – undecided)
Getting ready (contemplation – a little less undecided)
Ready (preparation – decided but not doing it yet)
Doing it! (action)
I think these stages are more for study and discussion purposes. I never ask myself if I am pre-contemplating or just contemplating something. I just know I’m either battling back and forth between yes and no.
I’m undecided. Or I’m decidedly going to do something.
Some of may be more complicated than this TTM theory allows for. Like me.
I find myself often not-ready-but-hoping-to-soon-be-getting-ready-to-be-ready. Quite an interesting place to be. This is when I am not rebelling against the idea of taking action, but I am still examining the pros and cons. Yes-no. Stay-go.
(Click here for my favorite song on the subject: Undecided by Ella Fitzgerald. Now there’s a woman who knows that a little scat-singing and a jazz beat goes a long way toward celebrating even the indecision that hurts.)
“Hmmm…maybe I will create a special spot to put my keys when I walk in the front door so I don’t lose them,” I think.
The not-ready-rebellious me says,
“No way. That would involve too much work. I would have to find the right spot. I would have to go shopping for a special hook or container or whatever to contain my keys. It would take too much time. It would cost too much money. It would have to match my decor…blah-de-blah.”
My not-ready but getting-ready self says,
“Well, I am tired of losing my keys in my house. It makes me late in the mornings. When I can’t find them I feel anxious. When I finally find them, I jump in my car and drive crazy to get where I’m going. It sure would feel better to start the day knowing where my keys are. Maybe I can find an inexpensive container for my keys.”
The early stages of contemplation are subtle, and maybe not even visible to anyone but me. I haven’t actually done anything about my key-losing problem – yet.
It brings me great comfort to think of my not-readiness as an important part of the change process.
Even if you are resistent, rebellious, umotivated or ambivalent, you could be closer to taking action than you realize.
From my experience, you can’t rush it. It happens when you are ready. (Or getting ready to think about being ready.)
Of course, you can surround yourself with positive support and reminders. You can create logs, schedules, or accountability partners. Things like these help some people. But usually not me.
I do better if I let myself off the hook, and give myself time to just think about what I might do once I’m ready.
Perhaps you’re like me…Just thinking about starting yoga (or flossing daily or eating your vegetables or having more fun…) is an important part of the process.
I’ve been teaching these 2 poses in most of my classes lately — and assigning them as homework. With so many of you interested in home practice, this post will help you get started.
Advanced Iyengar teacher Lois Steinberg gave me the idea, and I wanted to test it out.
This sequence is short & sweet — but don’t let that fool you! The affects can be mighty: you will stretch your legs, strengthen your quads, release your lower back, lengthen the sides of your trunk, open your shoulders, and spread your hands.
And the mental benefit — well, you’ll just have to try it now, won’t you? Let me know!
Lie down on your side with both buttocks on the wall.
Roll over and swing your legs up the wall.
Make sure your legs are centered in line with your trunk and head.
Straighten your legs while keeping your buttocks down on the floor.
Move your buttocks away from the wall if needed to get your legs straight.
When you come to class, you will learn more ways to customize the poses to fit your body’s needs.
You should be able to relax before you begin the actions of the pose.
Now do it again!
And onto the next pose!
Build strength by staying 30 seconds at first.
Work up to 1 minute.
Repeat 2-3 times.
Step your feet wider apart.
Place your hands higher on the wall.
Do this sequence every day and see what happens. You can do just this 2-pose sequence on its own. Or…do these 2 poses in preparation for a longer practice and see how you feel.