Today, 7am from 22 October 2018
Intention is everything, in life and in yoga. Intention focuses attention, brings to the practice the right attitude and, in turn fosters awareness. But setting the right intentions (compassionate, realistic, kind, achievable) is an art in itself. I have found that the simpler the intention, the more effective it is. My body likes to listen to clear instruction such as, to breathe deeply, from the pelvis, throughout my practice; or to find stillness in the poses rather than to fidget; or to not strive, to stay right where I am today. My intention is my midline: the place to return to, what tells me I am veering away or forgetting the kernel of my work. Every time I go back to it during my practice I am so grateful to have noticed. After all, intentions train the mind.
Like postures, setting and following intention is something I practice. It does not come as a given and every day is different, but I find that my focus increases if I am constant. Intentions also motivate me, keep me coming back. What is your intention? Why do you practice yoga? What do you need to pay attention to today?
What I have been watching
My friend Penny shared with me this video of Diane Bruni, her Toronto teacher. Diana is very experienced and generous. Here she shares how she became addicted to Ashtanga Yoga and the consequences of that, resulting in injuries. Injuries are great teachers, I find. While one would not want to encounter them often, they remind me that what we practice is not always that important. It is how we practice, what we bring to the postures, or whatever else we do. It is the intention that matters. How many times have I witnessed students who don’t bind in Marichyasana but are fully present, fold when they need to fold, twist when they need to twist. That is yoga right there. They are in the posture. The rest is decoration.
Being addicted to a practice, good as yoga is, is unhealthy. It is striving when we should be practicing non-attachment (vairagya) and not grasping (aparigraha). Striving takes you away from the present moment, from the relation between yourself and nowness that you are building through the yoga. For Ashtangis, it is easy to get carried away, though, which is why I learned very much from Diane’s video. To let go of grasping and to return to the present moment, have been my intentions ever since I watched it.
What I have been practicing
I love mantra signing, recitation and kirtan. Through my yin training, I have learned to recite the Gayatri Mantra, a very ancient song from the Rig Veda, in which the sun is honoured and asked to guide us. Mantra helps to calm my mind and my breath, to focus my intention, especially when repeated (11, 33, 108 times, as many as you want!). Singing brings about what is important to yoga: the diaphragmatic breath, slowing down and listening to the body, being more than doing, and sharing with others. It is very powerful.
I mainly do kirtan with my yoga philosophy teacher James Boag when he is in Glasgow. He has recently set up a youtube channel and he has some lovely lessons and mantras, which I am practicing. Sometimes, I am very grateful for technology! I have heard very good things about Dan Gronan’s kirtan in Glasgow too, and my friend Maureen is hosting him at the Old Barn on Sunday 25 November. A good opportunity to feel the beautiful vibrations of mantra!
What I have been reading
I am part of a regular meditation reading group (Club Med, we call it) and this month, we have been reading the first three chapters of Culadasa’s The Mind Illuminated. It is a lucid, comprehensive, clearly written book which outlines the meditative path, taking you step by step on this journey. It is not for the faint hearted because it is very detailed (500+ pages!) and takes you towards the spiritual more than the health side of meditation. Yet, it is exquisite in its simplicity. This is how he explains the power of intention (It is a long quote, but so worth it):
While it may not be obvious, all our achievements originate from intentions. Consider learning to play catch. As a child, you may have wanted to play catch, but at first your arm and hand just didn’t move in quite the right way. However, by sustaining the intention to catch the ball, after much practice, your arm and hand eventually performed the task whenever you wanted. “You” don’t play catch. Instead, you just intend to catch the ball, and the rest follows. “You” intend, and the body acts.
[…] Setting and holding the right intentions is what’s essential. If your intention is strong, the appropriate responses will occur, and the practice will unfold in a very natural and predictable way. […] Intentions lead to mental actions, and repeated mental actions become mental habits. […] Water these intentions with the diligence of regular practice, and protect them from the destructive pests of procrastination, doubt, desire, aversion, and agitation. These intentions will naturally flower into a specific series of mental events that mature to produce the fruits of our practice. Will a seed sprout more quickly if you keep digging it up and replanting it? No. Therefore, don’t let impatience or frustration stop you from practicing or convince you that you need to seek out a “better” or “easier” practice. Getting annoyed with every instance of mind-wandering or sleepiness is like tearing up the garden to get rid of the weeds. Attempting to force attention to remain stable is like trying to make a sapling grow taller by stretching it. Chasing after physical pliancy and meditative joy is like prying open a bud so it will blossom more quickly. Impatience and striving won’t make anything grow faster. Be patient and trust in the process. Care for the mind like a skilled gardener, and everything will flower and fruit in due time.
Until 13 December 2018
at the Arlington Baths, 61 Arlington Street Glasgow G3 6DT, as part of Rosina Bonsu’s programme:
Tuesdays, 18.15 – 20.30: Assisted Self-Practice (Mysore), £11 full price | £9 concession or included in the 8 class and unlimited cards.
Thursdays, 7.45 – 9.30: Assisted Self-Practice (Mysore), £11 full price | £9 concession or included in the 8 class and unlimited cards.
Friday 9 November, 18.00 – 19.30, Saturday 10 November, 12.00 – 13.30: Deepening your Breath (for yoga & life). Booking required. £40-£35 Arlington members, concessions / £30-£25 if you booked the previous course. +10% discount if you come to Assisted Self-Practice (Mysore) classes!
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Classes
Wednesdays 18.00 – 19.00, Wallace Studios RS6: Ashtanga Yoga (Yin on new and full moon days), £3 or £10 for 4 classes.
Fridays 13.00 – 14.00, Renfrew Street M1: Ashtanga Yoga (Yin on new and full moon days), £3 or £10 for 4 classes.