Tell your mind: Just hush.

At certain points in your life, surely you’ve heard an inner voice talking to you. Who am I kidding? That voice is talking to you all the time. Am I right? It’s talking to you right now. It’s saying something like, ‘why are you wasting your time with this. You have so many other things to do. Like… oh, when can I get some fro-yo?’

And you may have noticed that the voice isn’t always kind.

It might have said things like, ‘I can’t believe they asked you to dinner,’ or ‘you’re going to wear THAT?’ or ‘well, they’re just being charitable so bow out and eat that pizza from the freezer instead.’

Maybe your voice gets straight to the point: ‘You don’t even deserve their dinner or their charity. Look at you.’

Or maybe it’s more socratic and it does that open-ended thing like your dad used to do that shuts you down immediately. ‘What are you thinking?’ Ugh.

(How’s that for a funny, almost paradoxical question? I mean, THAT is precisely what you’re thinking. Come on, mind! And also, lighten up! I’d be thinking something so much better if you didn’t ask everything with that horrible tone.)

Oh, that voice. Imagine that voice in a body. Sharing your living space. Telling you how little you’ve made of your life. You’d be looking for a new housemate. If it took you to the beach for a fun day out, then told you how crappy you look in your bathing suit the whole time? Please say you’d ditch it. Go for a nice swim. Enjoy your time alone.

Right?

But this voice, we can’t really escape it. It keeps talking. Just today, I laughed when I heard that voice suggest that the meditation I was starting wasn’t going to serve me at all. Wouldn’t it be better, it advised, if you just had a cup of coffee? ‘Oh voice,’ I had to say, ‘just hush.’

Which isn’t to say that it should always be quiet. Sometimes it has really interesting information for us. Like, turn left, avoid that pothole, pick up the wedding present and call your clients.

But sometimes, for a little bit, it would be awesome to get a little silence. So we can listen into our deeper wisdom. Which may sound bonkers to you. Or not. But here’s the deal. That voice you hear endlessly yammering is the voice of your mind. For a lot of us, it get so consistently loud that we lose track of the messages that our intuition has for us. We can’t access that deeper intelligence and power through all that ruckus. For even more of us, we’ve completely forgotten that we have a source of wisdom deeper than the mind. We just… forgot.

And that’s because the voice of the mind tends to go on and on and on. Ceaselessly. Amidst all that flibber flabber blah blah, we forget that we have any control whatsoever over its agitation. All the negativity—the fear, doubt, grief, shame, guilt—that it broadcasts can actually be turned down. We can even work to prioritize a practice that will minimize these emotions. And when we do, we can start to seek peace in our wisdom with a peaceful mind. How can we possibly expect to find calm with the help of a distracted, confused and agitated mind? We’re lost from the first step.

But we have the means and ability to quiet that voice. We can say, ‘just hush, my dear dynamic mind.’ We can ask it to settle for a bit while we explore the reservoirs of joy, intelligence and knowing that come stock in all of us.

How so? Deepening your yoga sadhana to include breathing techniques that will help you understand and shift your energy, meditation practices that will help you identify your mind’s processing patterns, mantra practice that will guide you toward focused attention, and prayer to build your trust in all that surrounds you. These are just a few elements of an integrated yoga practice. This is how yoga brings you to a place of balance. This is what it means to be in union: to master the ceaseless fluctuations of your rambling mind.

Send me a note if you’d like to chat a bit more about this. I’d love to hear from you.

Give yourself a drink of water.

Let me ask a question.

How agitated are you?

I know. It’s like asking the witness when he stopped beating his wife. Sure there’s a presumption there but I don’t think I’m wrong.

We all have some level of unrest going on inside. It’s a pandemic exacerbated by the persistent demands on our attention by technology, by work, by financial concerns, kids, traffic, Netflix cliffhangers, diet, studies, AAAAH!

We are distracted to the point of deficiency. We can’t digest our food properly because of it. We don’t sleep well. We suffer through chronic pain. We are anxious, depressed, overwrought. And instead of eating better, we take a medicine. Instead of resting more, we take a sleeping pill. Instead of taking time to cultivate calm or relief from pain or avenues to alleviate depression, we medicate, neglect and bear it. We accept unrest as a natural turn of events. Something that simply comes with age. Fate.

But unrest isn’t compulsory. And it has a remedy. Guess it. Go on.

It’s not a pill.

It’s not even a supplement.

It’s rest.

Natural rest. The kind that follows from the simple act of lying down and doing nothing. Let me offer up a Spanish proverb:

que bueno es no hacer nada y luego descansar.

How nice is it to do nothing, and then to rest.

Because minds in unrest are primed for a challenge—all tied up in the fight-or-flight side of the nervous system, just itching for confrontation—let me make another offer. Please try this at home.

In honor of Yoga Month, set aside 10 minutes a day and try out each of the following four poses over four consecutive days. Each of these poses will calm your nervous system, improve your digestion and help you refuel your reserves of energy. Before you do any of them, silence your phone, wrap it in a sock and put it in a drawer in another room. Same for your computer, ipad, kindle, tv, children, spouse, etc. Then proceed with a hearty commitment to treating yourself right.

Savasana: Savasana means corpse pose. So make like one and lie flat on your back (or with a blanket under your knees if your low back is tight). Let your arms and legs relax on the ground a comfortable distance away from your body. Once your there, take some deep breaths, exhaling through your mouth. With every exhale, feel the weight of your bones sinking into the floor. Deepen your breath, feeling your belly rise and fall. And then, let go.

You won't lose your head in savasana.

You won’t lose your head.

Supported Child’s Pose: Grab a couple pillows or a blanket or two. Stack them so you’ve got a nice lump of softness to straddle. And then sink your bum back toward your heels, let your chest fall toward your knees and relax your arms wherever they’re most comfortable. Feel yourself releasing into all the points of contact your body makes with the floor. Then use your breath to soften through your spine. Finally, let go.

The head is integral, though not required in pics.

The head is integral, though not in pics.

Supta Baddha Konasana: Use your blankets or pillows again. Place them vertically in line with your sacrum so when you lie down over them, your torso covers the length of the pillows. If you have one more pillow or a blanket, use it to support your head, keeping your throat slightly open but not gaping. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall toward the ground. If you have more blankets and pillows, smoosh them under your knees to support the very open inner thighs here. If you don’t have more pillows, plan on staying in this pose with open knees for about 3-5 minutes and then use your hands to lift your knees toward each other and straighten your legs to the floor. Let go.

He’s shy. That’s all.

Viparita Karani: Sit on the floor and cozy your right side up to the nearest wall. Lean back onto your elbows and swing your legs up the wall. You should now look like a wall support. As you breathe, feel your femur bones sink into their hip sockets. Feel your spine settling on the floor. Finally, once again: let go.

Maintain your own head.

Use your own head.

All of these poses come from the restorative yoga playbook. They’ll help you access the healthful benefits of yoga poses without strain or stress. They’re intended to be performed in a relaxed manner. They do no harm. From the place these poses take you, your body can begin to heal, to repair, to restore. They not only trigger the parasympathetic nervous system—the benign twin of the fighting-and-fleeing sympathetic system; the yin, the nurturer, the healer—they don’t have any bad side effects. You rest. The consequence? You feel rested. You like yourself again. Other people like you too.

A student told me the other day that she was trying to find more energy to do more work after struggling through a 12-hour shift at work. She said she needed to get more done. She wanted my advice on pushing through because coffee wasn’t cutting it anymore.

All I could think was: if you were thirsty, you’d drink water. So why is it that when we’re tired, we don’t let ourselves rest? And don’t tell me you have too much to do. Because you know you aren’t effective when you’re Grumpy McGrumplestilk who can’t remember where she put her keys.

For more on restorative yoga, read anything by Judith Lasater but especially Relax & Renew. And come along to A Restorative Yoga Class at PB Yoga & Healing Arts. Sunday mornings at 9am.

Let me know how you go. I’d love to hear how these poses make you feel. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Now, drink up!

 

A man in his element?

I wonder if this has ever happened?

A man walks into a yoga studio and unrolls his mat. The yoga teacher welcomes him and asks, ‘why are you here?’ The man says, ‘I wanna study the contours of my existence.’ The yoga teacher faints, revives and lets the man lead the class. He doesn’t have a playlist but all the students are moved. Somewhere, someone weeps.

I ask because I just read a Yoga Trail article that advises yoga teachers– especially women– to mind our yoga talk when men come in the room. As in, cool it with the convo about ancient wisdom and hooha because guys just want a workout. As in, dudes aren’t reflective beasts so let them scratch themselves. As in, grunt roar burp. (To be fair, the writer lists a few common restrictions in the male body that can present a challenge in asana. But yoga, remember, is not all physical.)

Which brings me back to this: Poor men. It’s a sad stereotype they’re expected to abide. And, I think, an incorrect one. I’m not sure I can lead a charge to free them of it, but I’d like to provide three examples of perfectly manly men who manage to tolerate– read: teach me a thing or two about– introspection.

Example One: This morning, I taught A Restorative Yoga Class at PB Yoga & Healing Arts.
(FYI: You can find me there every Sunday at 9am, or every Wednesday at 6pm, or every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:45am, or, starting August 3, every day in my massage room! Oh, that’s big news that will be trumpeted later.) A new student (to me, anyway), male, entered the studio and asked, ‘So what’re we doing this morning?’

‘Did you really just stumble into my restorative class?’ I asked.

‘I don’t like to have any expectations,’ he said. ‘Where do I sit?’

Let’s all consider, for a second, just how awesome that preference is. It’s a perfectly good representation of how our circumstances are mostly irrelevant. They arise; they pass. They transit and leave us behind. This guy knew he was going to yoga. Beyond that, he was free. He was the constant. He claimed his space with himself. He settled into a lazy boy of blankets and let go a few groans. He never once complained that he would have preferred to bench press the bolsters. He even stuck around to chat and admire the rain.

Example Dos: Two of my current teachers– Gary Kraftsow and Juris Zinbergs— are guys. Developed of an XY chromosome and yet, somehow, compelled to inspire me to re-examine my relationship with yoga philosophy. From them, I understood that this was where my body wanted to be. That I was ready to practice yoga in a new way so that I can better know myself. Also, so I can join the discussion. Four of my former teachers are also men. In fact, I can’t even say that they’re former teachers as any of them, except the dead one, would likely take my call and blow my mind with something that is not at all about crunching abs but crunching old patterns of thought.

Example Three: This one is not so much an example as a statement of fact. Every man is capable and competent in perceiving his own thought, emotion, condition and mortality because every man is human. While a certain feminist spirit kindles in me that women have claimed a few modern soapboxes to remind their communities to occasionally peer within– just, I might add, as some revered yogini were known to do in the wayback– it’s still the case that the past few millenia of history have been largely recorded and contemplated by men. They are certainly capable of managing a moment of insight in a yoga studio.

So, yay men, I suppose, and yay to women as well. Seriously. Whoever you are and however you identify, there’s great intelligence available for you if you start listening in. It’s one of the burdens and blessings of being alive.

And that, to man or woman, can be a frightening proposition.