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What’s wrong with silence in savasana? Or silence throughout class? Do you use music in yoga or do you believe that silence is golden?
As for me, it depends. I seem to have a foot in both camps. In my earlier days of teaching, I used to agonise over music for each class, structuring playlists and seeking out the perfect tracks but over the past few years that’s changed. I realised recently that in the majority of my classes now I don’t play music at all. In some instances this was a conscious choice, in others it was circumstances, like having no access to a stereo. I always have silence in savasana though – that’s a non-negotiable for me when I’m teaching. As a student I enjoy music in yoga classes – it depends
on the class in question – though I find music in savasana too stimulating (and it makes me stroppy!)
If most of my classes now are music-free, why am I still playing music in others? I have no explanation other than because it seems to feel right for those particular classes. I’ve also noted that these tend to be my longest established classes, so maybe there’s a feeling of a precedent being set with the inclusion of music? Or is it attachment on my part? Or assumed expectations of the students?
At one class, the stereo broke down one week so I taught without music. I apologised at the start, explaining that there would be no music today. My voice provided the soundtrack along with the noises of weights being thrown to the ground in the body pump class next door. At the end of that class one of the regular attendees approached me and said, “Don’t worry about the music – you really don’t need it.” Moments later, someone else told me the class felt very strange without music and that they missed it (even though I use pretty much the same playlist for this class each week).
When used mindfully, I feel that music can be a positive and powerful tool for many people. A well-placed song can, like a yoga prop, help to support one’s practice. But I accept that for as many
practitioners who love music with their yoga there will be just as many who hate it and believe it has no place in a yoga class.
You can’t please everybody. Can we agree to disagree?
Paula Hines is a London-based yoga teacher and writer (ucanyoga.co.uk).
Ty Landrum is the director of The Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. He teaches Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as he learns it from his teachers, Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman.
With a PhD in philosophy, Ty has a special touch for explaining the theory of yoga with colour and creativity. His passion as a teacher is to share the brilliance of yoga with anyone who wants to learn. In this special course, you’ll explore that experience through the potent practice of traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa. The course will consist of daily morning Mysore practices, followed by instruction in Pranayama (according to the methods of the Krishnamacharya lineage), and a series of afternoon workshops designed to illumine our theme. Some workshops will explore practical aspects of asana, bandha, mudra, and meditation, while others will be pure philosophy.
This course is designed to accommodate practitioners of all kinds. No special proficiency is expected, and people with injuries, health challenges, and other limitations are totally welcome to participate. The only intelligent approach to Ashtanga is to modify and adapt the practice to our current circumstance, so that we can practice just as we are. Find out more at yogagoa.com
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Breathing through anxiety – a quick and simple meditation to let go of the damaging effects of nervous anticipation for any event. By Jill Lawson
Anticipation is an action that fosters excitement, but sometimes the expectant waiting can do more harm than good.
While preparing for an approaching hurricane heading for Hawaii, I experienced a type of anticipation that wreaked havoc on my adrenal glands and caused a spike in unpleasant sensations. This type of anticipation is neither healthy or helpful.
Distressing about a hurricane may (hopefully) never be in your future. However, anticipation of other happenings can be just as harmful to your wellbeing. If you struggle with anxiety, the expectant waiting for a non-life threatening event, good or bad, such as an upcoming job interview, your wedding, or a forced confrontation, can put the kibosh on your state of inner peace.
I created the following meditation after realising how much precious life-energy I wasted whilst awaiting a serious
disaster that fortunately didn’t take place in my location. If I could have only listened to my own advice then, I might
have been able to sleep, eat, laugh, and be well in the present moment. Instead, I was overcome with nagging and
relentless fright because I was worried about the future.
Use this meditation to let go of the damaging effects of nervous anticipation, for any level, size, and scale of event.
Breathing Through Anxiety
Begin in a comfortable position. If your anticipation comes from a news report, turn off your iPhone, iPad, television,
radio, and/or put your newspaper in a different room. The news is good at inducing fear; so take all the time you need to clear your space and mind of the latest news reports. If your anticipation comes from thinking about a future event, you must trust that in the present moment, nothing has changed, and everything is still okay. Look around you, look within you, and say to yourself, “In this moment, everything is okay.” Repeat it until you realise it.
Now connect with your breath. While you lengthen and deepen each inhale and exhale, bring your awareness to
the subtle qualities of your life-force energy. Notice any sensations you feel in your chest, stomach, and head. If you
are experiencing anxiety, use your awareness of the present moment to calm these stress responses.
Keep in mind, that this meditation isn’t about disregarding the necessary preparations needed for what may be coming. It is about eliminating tension so you can feel at ease while being productive. It’s good to be ready for the future; you just don’t have to carry the burden of fear in doing so.
Jill Lawson is a writer and yoga teacher enjoying life on the island of Maui in Hawaii (jilllawson.net)
The body’s natural processing and release of tension and stress in the psoas. By Sandra Carson
The key to allowing your psoas to release the built up tension is creating a safe space and an attitude of allowance of release for your body. Sometimes the muscles in your body will spontaneously release when you feel at ease and there is muscle activation or stretch (for example in a yoga class). One way the muscles release is by trembling and vibrating and literally shaking off the stress that was stored. This is a natural and healthy way of tension release in the psoas.
This physical release of tension and/or trauma will then be able to be processed by the brain as well. This processing may cause emotions and memories to come up as fragments, and you may or may not remember the event that caused the stress. It can feel a bit strange to have emotions come up like sadness, anger or even joy, without knowing what caused them. And sometimes, you can directly relate it back to an event or situation.
A student from my class who was shaking and trembling, with tears running down her face, slowly came up to sitting. After being silent for a moment, she shared what happened to her. In the moment she shared, she experienced a strong headache. She explained that she had a flashback of being 11-years-old. It was her sister’s birthday; she heard the music and the cheering of people. She remembered that she had been in a bicycle accident that day; she had been hit by a car and suffered a concussion. But it was her sister’s birthday, and there was no attention or room for her pain. And so she swallowed it and suppressed her pain. All these memories came back to her that day as her psoas released, like it happened just yesterday. My student was 52-years-old.
Because the psoas muscle is so closely involved in the physical response of the sympathetic state and stores up our unprocessed tension and trauma, the tone of psoas has an effect on the opening of the ‘spiritual heart’. Feeling your own expansive nature, experiencing the unbounded freedom of your heart and the flow of life’s energy moving through you, is one of the great promises and rewards of a spiritual practice. The experience of connectivity to all life and ‘oneness’ will far likely be the fullest when all your defence mechanisms are turned off, when your guard is down and you feel completely ‘at peace’. Just try opening your heart in a situation where your body is in fight or flight mode! Only when you feel completely safe can you be vulnerable and can the heart truly open.
Take it easy
The more you learn to access this natural processing of releasing the psoas, the more tension you let go of in your body. This release changes the tone in the muscles in your body, which can temporarily affect your feeling of stability and steadiness. The stored-up tension in your psoas forces the rest of your body to adapt and accommodate around this tension, creating a distorted sense of balance.
When you start to release, take it slowly. Releasing too much tension in one time can result in a wobbly feeling in your body, deep feeling of fatigue or energy depletion that had been suppressed and is now set free. And stronger emotions may come to the surface afterwards because the door has been opened to release. You may also have access to more memories, of events or people. It is important to release slowly and gently over time, and accept whatever rises up. You may experience the release differently every time it happens. Even expectations you may have around what the release looks like or how intense it is, could inhibit the natural process of letting go. Releasing the psoas teaches you to surrender to your body and let the psoas do what it instinctually knows how to do. Rather than interfere with your body or make it “do” something, just enjoy not being fully in control for a change!
Opening and feeling
You may wonder what it will bring you by releasing your psoas? Your body moves in a way that may feel silly or even weird, and certain unpleasant emotions and feelings may come up from your past. Why not just leave the past alone, live in the moment, accepting what is? In my experience working with people to help them release their psoas, they not only feel better in their body but also in their life on many other levels. When you learn to connect to your psoas and release the stored up tension, it is highly likely that you may sleep better, have better moods, more easily notice your natural boundaries, and be more able to avoid burn out or exhaustion in the long run.
You may be more in touch with your energy, feel more at ease, and more at home in your body and in your life. By feeling more anchored and connected to your body you might be much more able to open your heart and embrace life as it comes. You will experience more peace and stillness in your mind and a sense of aliveness while being relaxed. An awakened and relaxed psoas has nothing less than a magical effect on your being, embodiment and energy.
Think you’re the world’s worst yogi? It doesn’t matter how long you practice, just make sure you get on that mat. By Lucy Cooney
I have just come in from my garden, having actually managed 20 minutes of yoga. This is actually quite good for me. Although we yogis are meant to spend hours connecting to the divine, I just don’t seem to be able to manage it anymore!
A very good friend dragged me along to my first yoga class five years ago. The discipline, the poses and the breathing got me hooked immediately. The class specialised in ashtanga which, among many other elements, is a cleverly constructed sequence of poses. Yogis are encouraged to focus on their breathing (ujjayi breathing, or ‘breath of fire’) and their bandhas (a series of internal energy gates which are regulated during the practice).
The married couple who run the studio welcome everyone into the ‘family’ and this atmosphere, as well as the classes, was a huge draw. I was hooked. I attended classes three times a week and practiced at home too. Ashtanga does succeed in making you incredibly fit, incredibly quickly. I found I could swim for hours while on holiday.
World’s Worst Yogi
However, life, as it has a habit of doing, got in the way. I made the decision three years ago to go from part time teaching to full time teaching…and how my yoga suffered as a result. I have put on weight, cannot walk or swim for long distances and attend classes only sporadically. I lost one yoga mat when I left it at a class and my other one sits rolled up in a corner gathering dust. I have become the worst yogi in the world.
And yet…such is the spell cast by this practice (it is not exercise, my yoga teacher had told me many times!) that I sometimes physically crave doing yoga. I long to hang upside down in downward facing dog and stretch every inch of me from my fingertips to the ends of my toes.
So, I force myself to make time. One ardent yogi once told me that any time on the mat is time well spent and I am inclined to agree. Having just done 20 minutes I feel like a different person. I have, by getting into different poses, had the chance to literally look at the world in a different way and from a different angle. The other advantage is the meditation at the end of the practice. The yogis of old used the asanas (poses) as a way of purifying their bodies so that they were ready to meditate. There is also something incredibly satisfying about having a little rest after you have sweated and laboured during your practice.
Maybe, after all, I am not the world’s worst yogi. I may not have two-and-a-half hours a day to spare but I do have some precious moments where I can breathe, stretch and meditate. Namaste.
Article from Issue 89 of OM Yoga magazine. Subscribe now to make sure you never miss an issue.