August 20, 2015
When Friday of week 7 of my “Yoga Revival” came around, I knew I had some free time after work, so planned to do my yoga then. It was another beautiful Seattle summer day, and the great outdoors beckoned me to do it outside. But, in the name of saving time (for a little kayaking), I decided to do my yoga in the warehouse here at Barefoot Yoga HQ after everyone left for the weekend.
I blasted some random yoga music from my computer, and rolled out my Barefoot Performance Grip mat – which has been getting grippier with age (mats really do take some time to break in). I rolled around on a tennis ball for a while, and did some hamstring stretches lying on my back – using a strap. This has become my standard warm-up.
Before getting too comfortable, I jumped up and began my sun salutations. I do these pretty similarly each time, extending the traditional salutations in ways I’ve learned over the years from various teachers, and my own experimentation – that help me to get deeper in each pose.
I am sometimes surprised when my 30 minute watch alarm goes off, and I am only just finishing my sun salutations. It’s a good sign when this happens, and an even better sign when I don’t hear the alarm, because I am so deeply immersed in the practice and the sound of my breathing. I love this about asana practice. It is easy to get so involved in the movement and breathing, that you lose yourself – which is to say you find yourself – completely immersed in the moment. These ancient yoga poses draw us into this kind of meditation, where the body and mind merge as one. There is effort, but there is also an effortless quality to this convergence. Sometimes it just happens…naturally.
Sitting meditation, on the other hand, does not provide movement to assist the mind into such a zone. Over the past 7 weeks since committing to a virtually daily practice, I have done many 30 minute sitting meditations – primarily because I had come to the end of the day without getting my yoga in, and was too full of food to do an asana practice.
There have been moments during these sitting meditations when I was in “the zone” – thinking of nothing, deeply immersed in the sound of my own breathing, very still. But I hazard to guess there have been more moments when I was squirming, my mind wandering, and wondering how long until my alarm would go off, and how was I going to make it.
On this particular afternoon, my alarm went off sooner than expected. So I reset it, and kept going. And I ended with a 10 minute sitting meditation. The random yoga music from my computer happened to have become a buoyantly sung version of the Tibetan incantation – Om Mani Padme Hum – one I had learned many years earlier when hiking the Annapurna trail in Nepal, and reading The Snow Leopard.
Alone in the warehouse, I sang that chant with the kind of abandon I don’t believe I could have done in a class full of strangers. I was thoroughly immersed in it, “Om Mani Padme Hum” echoing through the warehouse. Those 10 minutes of sitting meditation went by in a flash. I sealed the deal with sivasana, and floated onwards from my warehouse refuge into the sunny Seattle evening – humming peacefully.