August 1-3, 2020
Well, y’all, it looks like we’re going to be doing the online, at-home classes for a while, even with the recent addition of some outside in-person classes, at least until we Americans decide that we need to kick the Covid. I’m infinitely thankful for the many of you who have been doing yoga at home with me on Zoom for all these months, or even from time to time. Given this current and ongoing situation, it would have been good for me to write the following a few months ago, but I had the same fantasy we all did about being back to some kind of “normal-ish” by now!
So this blog is to give tips on how to practice at home to utilize the time, space, focus and energy in the most productive way.
I want first to acknowledge something I’ve noticed over the past months of only me being at Loving Kindness (and Nikki for Friday kirtans). Many of you are aware of the energy that is/was in the space, and I know some of you could feel it as you walked in; I could. Even when I’d come out of the restroom, I would feel the powerful energy of the space. That energy was purposely cultivated over the years of being there, and I feel that it helped me do my “job” in “working” with you all. It made my “job” easier.
Over the past 4 1/2 months of being closed to students, it has felt to me that the energy has been somewhat waning and isn’t as powerful as it was back in March and before. I noticed it, but honestly didn’t fully want to acknowledge and look at it. Though I continue to meditate and chant and do kirtan there, things that I have done over the years to help build the energy in the space, still there has been what seemed a “net loss” in energy. I chalked that up to me somewhat withdrawing myself from the space, not knowing if we’d be able to keep the space open or ever have students back again. I took it as a natural part of the grieving process of losing the way my “job” had been and losing the intimate energetic and spiritual connection that we all had together and loved.
This week, though, I realized, from a number of different angles, that I didn’t “create” it myself, which I knew already but had figured it was mostly “spiritual energies” that were aiding in the process beyond the actions that I was doing. It became beautifully clear that that powerful energy in the space was partly and largely brought by YOU ALL, by everyone who came to the space and shared their consciousness, love and the energy of their practice! So it’s totally natural that there’s less energy there now…and yes, it can be there again.
Then interestingly, right along with that thought, I realized that you all are now taking that energy that you’d been sharing/giving in the Loving Kindness space and doing yoga in YOUR spaces, in your homes, and building the energy there and thereby spreading it around the community (and country!) in a different way than before. Though in March and before, we had a temple, a powerful center of energy, in Loving Kindness the physical space, now that energy is disbursed in smaller pockets, like seeds, throughout the community!
(A side note: The energy in the space got a boost after that realization as my “depressed” mood about it was greatly lifted.)
With that background, and hopefully a little more feeling of personal responsibility for the energy you are cultivating in your space, here are some tips that may be helpful.
First and most important, as you already know by now, is to have an actual space to do your yoga. Not everyone, I realize, has a yoga room in their home (…yet), so choosing your space is important. If you CAN have a room that is dedicated to your yoga, that is by far the best, but maybe you have a room that serves multiple purposes, which can also be fine. I generally encourage if at all possible don’t have your yoga space be in your bedroom, which as you know has the energy of sleep there more strongly than other locations, and in yoga, of course, we are trying to Wake Up! If you use an office space or space where there’s a computer or TV, covering those screens with something pretty at least for your practice time can make a surprisingly big difference in the quality of your practice. Appropriate lighting also can help create an ambience if you are practicing in the evening.
Many of you are having fun doing yoga with your animals, and that can be OK, of course, but though I love our dogs and all of them over the many years, they weren’t welcome in the yoga room when I was practicing simply so I didn’t have that distraction; I’m fairly good at distracting myself, so…. Maybe you, too? 🙂 But many of you really like doing yoga with your animals present, and please continue. If you don’t have a door to close, don’t even try to keep them away, in my experience, but even then, some will just be even more distracting!
Some of you don’t have a big choice in your yoga space, and experience the decision more like, “HERE is the big enough space for me to practice yoga. I’ll do yoga here.”
In any case, if you can take some care in how you “make” your space, that can be helpful. I think it’s useful if you create a small (or large) altar, which can be as simple as a small shelf or table, on which you can place some photos or items that help remind you of your connection with the Source or just that you find beautiful and uplifting. Things from nature are great. Some things like crystals, salt lamp, and icons help hold the energy you are building. (I do have a couple salt lamps for sale still at the studio.)
The point of an altar is to have a “center-point,” a physical reminder and place of focus for what your practice is ultimately all about for you. It’s also a place to help hold the energy of your practice. Don’t overthink it since any effort in this direction needs to come from your heart and be genuine and real for YOU. Also, if you want something from the Loving Kindness space to bring that energy more purposely to your space, let me know and I’m sure I can find something to gift you with.
If the idea of an altar doesn’t resonate with you, or you don’t have physical space for it, don’t worry, when you come to your practice, just have as your intention and resolve, “When I put my mat down on the floor for yoga, it is now my sacred space, my space for the important work of going deeply into myself.” Or something like that, whatever is true for you. In this way, just the act of putting your mat down can serve as your reminder of what you are doing there, so don’t just mindlessly throw your mat down.
And if you don’t have a mat yet (how could that happen?!), I do have some used ones that I’m happy to give away for a donation since I’m not easily seeing a time for a while when I’ll be providing props for public use.
Once you have a space, how you approach it is maybe next most important. There was always the phenomenon for classes that there would be a few people who were relatively early, and many who would arrive within the final 1-5 minutes before class; there were a couple who amazed me at their ability to arrive consistently just as I was closing the door; and then there were the few in the “10:05” club, typically up to 5 minutes late, sometimes enough of them to have a “meeting” on the bridge.
Classes being on Zoom has resulted in a little change to this phenomenon. I typically arrive about 5 minutes before class is to begin since generally there is maybe one person who is there by then. (I would show up earlier if folks were there and had questions or wanted to chat, but no pressure.) Then there is this amazing flurry that could only happen in the online-world in the minute before class is scheduled to begin, and then of course, there are those who can now join in “late” and I only know about it when saying “Hey!” to everyone at the end.
Given the realities of our life in the world, and trying to keep the nice fact that it’s easier (I assume) to show up for classes on Zoom than in person, I’ll put a strong encouragement out there for aiming at laying your mat down (at least) 5 minutes before class starts so you can have a moment to chill before “jumping” (probably really meaning “hurriedly scurrying” or “breathlessly slamming”) into meditation. I’m SURE you can do it, get there a little early. What would it take? Maybe just scheduling that extra 5 (short) minutes into the process; at least you don’t have to physically GET to the yoga school! How long did that take? I’m sure this small change will have an overall positive effect on your practice.
If you are joining on Zoom, you are, of course, using an electronic communication device. Remember, whatever the device, don’t answer any calls or texts or emails or whatever during your practice time; don’t check the news or stocks or whatever; no social media. You know. For that time, your device is just a “yoga prop,” nothing more, and is to be used ONLY for that purpose. You may know what I mean.
Beyond that, simple stuff: eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated, eat your fermented foods, think positive thoughts, minimize social media and news intake, practice loving and serving whenever possible, do as much good as you possibly can.
And in your practice each time, try to learn or discover something new. You are an explorer of your own experience. Don’t be satisfied with the surface (it’s not satisfying anyway) but go in as deeply as you can.
You’re in my prayers.