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February 20, 2010 / Wendy Joan

Saturday Morning Meditation

My phone is off. The bedroom is filled with what looks like late morning sunlight. I feel like I have slept for hours, but it is 9:20. I roll over, then realize I have just woke up in time for Saturday morning yoga–the class I have been setting an alarm to go to every week since 2010 started–all on my own.

I’m on my way to the Y by 9:45 with a full cup of coffee in my hand knowing that the caffeine will make me ache but sucking it down anyway. On the drive I think about how unfortunate it is that Tiger Woods is the new face of Buddhism. The yoga studio is next to the spinning room, where that song from “Slumdog Millionaire” blasts and the instructor yells and the cyclers grunt. I have never seen anything less appealing, especially on a weekend morning.

The yoga instructor is a substitute for the Saturday morning teacher, Elizabeth. The room is full and the yogis scramble for two blocks, one strap and a spare mat if they haven’t brought their own. The instructor hands each of the 30 of us in the room a  foam wedge. I was too polite to push my way to the front of the room and instead sit in the corner by the window next to a short young woman with a pretty neck tattoo.

The name of the game today is integral yoga. We breath and move slowly and within minutes I begin to feel the tension of the week melt away. I notice a few middle-aged women in athletic wear less-than-subtly roll up their mats, pull on their crew socks and lace up their running shoes–and I immediately know why. The class is “slow.” Ten minutes in, the are not breaking a sweat. They think they are not getting work done, not shedding calories or pants sizes, so they leave as soon as they realize this.

One of the more physical lessons I’ve learned from yoga is that you should use as much energy and strength in a mountain pose

as you do in a headstand.

It’s hard to be critical though. If you’ve watched even a half hour of the Vancouver Olympic Games, you’ve seen the commercials that remind us that athletes who push themselves to the physical extreme and are successful and win gold medals. All nighters are good. Total relaxation is bad. But all the emphasis is on the body, and little attention is paid to the mind.

I like “slow” yoga classes because they teach you the essential components of each pose. By concentrating on key elements of a pose (and not rushing from asana to asana), you learn how the pose feels when done correctly. And, when you find yourself in a power class quickly moving from pose to pose, your muscles will remember how they are supposed to feel and where they are supposed to go. Only by slowing down do we build the discipline and memory to move forward in our practice.

All I’m sayin’.

(Headstand photo by Khor Hui Min)

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One Comment

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  1. David McCullough / Mar 2 2010 5:05 pm

    For westerners, the tattoo has always been a metaphor of difference. ~Margo DeMello, Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community, 2000

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