Monday, November 16, 2009

Don't Steal My Bliss, Man

Contrary to popular belief, the physical practice of yoga (asana) is only one component of yoga. While I feel a whole hell of a lot calmer, kinder and at ease in my body when I’m physically practicing, without the control of the “mind stuff” a whole sweaty practice can go to waste faster than you can say “take this om and shove it!”

For example, recently I experienced an absolutely blissful, sweaty asana practice with one of my favorite vinyasa teachers, Whitney Allen at Yogaworks at Larchmont Village. She always keeps the flow new and fresh, and incorporates tunes that seem to help the class float through the creatively choreographed Surya Namaskara sequence. She fills our heads with inspiration and gratitude. After enjoying a luxurious savasana at the end of class, she led us through three rounds of overlapping Oms. It sounded absolutely heavenly – a room of 35 yogis unleashing their most heartfelt Oms from the bottom of their souls. With my eyes closed, I didn’t participate in the last Om just so I could enjoy the angelic sounds of my fellow yogis. It was truly ethereal. I floated out of that class without a care in the world. Then I pulled out my iPhone and checked my email.

There in my inbox was yet another mile long email from my landlord complaining about the condition of the yard, as if we have no life and can spend our days sweeping and raking the massive property. Sure, everyone agreed to water a section of the yard, but it never seems to be enough. She was emailing about her visit over the weekend.

Last but not least, the fruit trees were really dry. I know you
just got this responsibility, but please water them regularly until we get
some substantial rain. It is better to use the sprinkler head and let it
run about a half hour on each of the three trees. There doesn't have to be a
lot of water pressure.  Deep watering is the best.

Um, yea, okay Lady – Let me spend an hour and a half 3 times a week watering your trees and then ooh, oooh! Can I pay the water bill too??

Needless to say this sent my vinyasa zen calm right out the window. I was livid. I tried to talk myself out of it. Do not let this undo what took an hour and a half of sweat and breath to achieve… but it was too late. My panties were all in a wod. I obsessed about it all the way through my after yoga snack and continued to obsess over it all the way to my next destination, fantasizing about sending her an email telling her where she could shove those fruit trees.

It was only when I got my mind focused on something else that my anger and irritation started to fade. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1:2 translates to: “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.” It is said that this is the most important of all the sutras, as the remaining sutras only serve to explain and expand on this one.

I kept trying to steer my mind to something other than my irritating landlord, but I wasn’t able to do that until I was in the company of others, and only after I ranted about it for good five minutes. Once I engaged myself in another activity I was finally able to move on. Just like a child – when you dangle something shiny in front of its face it’s distracted.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: When you’re focused on something that’s screwing with your zen, you need to go do something to take your mind off of it. Otherwise your little monkey brain will just obsess itself crazy.