Archive for December, 2012

greeting the light within

Namaste.  I say it at the end of each of my yoga classes, and my students repeat it back to me.  I assume, as yogis, we all know what it means, and I rarely take the time to define it.

I am no Sanskrit scholar, but as I have learned it, namaste means: the light of the divine within me, honors the light of the divine within you.

It’s a lot for a little word, no?  Sanskrit is that way, with layers of meaning in one or two words.

Nama means I bow.  Te means to you.  I bow to you.  But it is not simply me, this body, bowing to you, your body.  It is my essence bowing to your essence–the highest in me recognizing and bowing to the highest in you.  This body holds that light, is the container that gives it hands to type and eyes to see and feet to tickle and throat to laugh, but this body does not define that light.

This week, after the terrible shootings in Connecticut, our newspaper printed photos of most of the victims.  The front page was full of smiling little faces of boys and girls, and their teachers.  My first thought was to hide this paper from my children, to read it when they were asleep, grieve privately over the faces of children not much older than my own.

But my second thought, seeing these beautiful faces, was to show them to my children.  They are–at two–far too young to hear or understand the story of these children.  So I opened the paper, and put it on the floor, and we admired the faces of the kids.  “That,” my son said, pointing to one boy’s notably carrot-red hair.  “Red hair,” I told him.  “That’s a boy with very red hair.”

“Eyeglasses,” my daughter said, noting one girl with glasses slid halfway down her nose.  “Yes,” I replied, “she is wearing eyeglasses.”

And so it went, throughout the day, we would pull out the paper, and look at the kids.  Hi kids, they said, over and over.  Hi kids.

Namaste.

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December 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm 4 comments

Time to Rest

Often, as I am gathering my children and their favorite stuffed bears together for nap time, I wish that someone would gather me and my favorite bear (actually, he was a stuffed dog named Henry and I still have him, though I no longer sleep with him), kiss me on my cheek, and tuck me in for a little rest.

At the end of our yoga practice, this is exactly what we give ourselves, when we take savasana.  Usually translated as corpse pose, described (by David Swenson, in his wonderful Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual) as the “death of a practice,” it’s a chance to rest, to be.

I think of it as a time for the body to integrate all of the learning it has done during the practice.  Especially if you’re taking class, and following instruction for an hour or an hour and a half, your body and mind are probably ready for the break from listening, and doing.

And unlike rests that I give myself at other points during the day–like now, when my kids are napping, so I am checking email and writing a blog post–this is a moment of doing nothing.  A moment to simply be.

And unlike actually falling asleep, the resting in savasana is in that space between sleep and wakefulness, when the brain is alert and aware but still, quiet.  This stillness is not only an essential part of savasana, it’s an essential part of the practice of yoga.  As my first teacher said–if you don’t have this quality, you’re just standing around on one foot in a really hot room.

So, savasana is a chance to notice this quality of stillness, to be with it, to allow it to be within ourselves; a chance to rest.

Enjoy.

 

December 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm 1 comment


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