reclaiming self and solitude

The holiday season has me thinking about alone-ness.

These days, solitude gets a bad rep. Many of us equate alone-ness with lack, with deprivation, with sadness, with loneliness, unlove-ability.

solitude_photography18Solitude can be something else, entirely. It can be a deliberate turning away from the distractions, attachments and suffering of the material, commercial world. It can be the cultivation of a rich internal life. A search for order, meaning and purpose in a world that makes no sense. The discovery of allies…in nature, in our bodies, in the postures, in the lineage and history of our practice. A reclaiming of the self.

‘Be captain. Stand alone. Go within, into solitude. Find a creative spark, a vision.’ -David Garrigues

There are eight distinct limbs of yoga practice. One of these is ‘pratyahara’, which means withdrawal of the senses. Pratyahara requires the practitioner to abstain from sensory pleasures for the purpose of spiritual goals. Practically speaking, this can include a variety of ascetic practices such as fasting, frugality, celibacy, intensive study of yoga texts, and devotion to a difficult daily asana practice.

Such asceticism stands in stark contrast to the Black Friday/Small-Business Saturday/Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday frenzy currently underway in the outside world.

The torrent of commercial, consumption-oriented messages makes me want to protect the sanctity of the hot room and the practice. Not just for the good of our yoga community, but also for my own wellbeing–and for the sake of my children.

I find myself returning over and over again to the five allies of practice:

  1. Foundation: where is the body touching the earth? Remember to trust the abundance and safety of mother earth. Sink down, slow down. Stand still. Sit quietly. Eat regularly. Sleep well. Honor the rhythms of nature. (Be like the bear who hibernates.)
  2. The axis of the spine: what is happening with this brilliant pillar of light, blazing right at the center of the body? what shape is the spine making? Continually strive to make the shape of the spine clearer, stronger, more dynamic and expressive.
  3. The gaze: are the eyes focused? and where? with what level of intensity/clarity?
  4. The breathing: is the breathing full, free, organic, uninhibited and smooth?
  5. The grip: which muscles are gripping bones? where is skin touching skin? Is the chin locked? Is the navel pressing into the spine?

I use these allies (learned from my teacher David) on the mat, but also in daily life when I feel myself becoming unmoored, lonely, sad, overstimulated or overcaffeinated (ha).

Please remember to make time for yourself this season. Come to class. Go within. Find your allies.

That wholesome, nourishing feeling you’re looking for at the restaurant, the party, the mall?

It’s waiting for you. On your mat. Inside of you.



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