What’s Your Song?

I had a request from a friend the other day for some yoga music suggestions.  Not being overly impressed with my music collection, I did a web search and found a few playlists recommended by other instructors.  Unfortunately, these playlists weren’t jiving with me.  It made me realize that my preference leans towards instrumental tracks or Kirtan-style music, where the lyrics are in Sanskrit (leaving me mostly unaware of the meaning of the song, which I’m not sure is a good thing or a bad thing ;)).  I realized my desire from a yoga class is to immerse myself in the present and to enjoy the meditative flow or stillness of my body in asana, and my hope for my students is the same.  You know, let  the music accompany the experience, but not take the spotlight.

This is not to say that I don’t use songs with English lyrics ever in the my classes.  I’m just very selective and considerate of the way a song might grab my students’ attention.  Perhaps that’s taking my yoga too seriously.  Some might say it’s fun to lighten up the class and “get jiggy with it” (I guess there’s no hiding my age now).  I certainly understand loving music and music diversity.  However, for yoga, I’m mostly in search of soulful, melodic, and subtle.   I’m always looking for new suggestions if you have some.

Here’s what I’ve been playing with lately… For Kirtan, I recently discovered Girish and for a more upbeat or flow class try Thievery Corporation.  Also, iTunes has a great selection of familiar songs done in karaoke tracks, e.g. I just downloaded some Jack Johnson, Jason Miraz and Colbie Caillat in acoustic guitar/karaoke.  A nice website for yoga/meditation music which samples a nice compilation of albums to browse is http://www.whiteswanmusic.com/.

Peace and harmony.

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The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.

-Carl Rogers

I was preparing a class with a theme of acceptance and tolerance the other day.  My intention was to have the students practice acceptance of their physical bodies, as it is in form and in ability, and to encourage reflection on the judgments that may come into their minds of themselves and of others.  As I got writing, I got thinking about the student who forces himself into the advanced stage of a pose beyond his current physical abilities, straining to achieve the final position come hell or high water… so tense that he is unaware of the sensations in his body rendering your instructions of the subtle body impenetrable even if you shouted with a megaphone (sorry, small rant).   It brought me back to contemplating Ahimsa, one of the yamas, or ethical principles, taught in eight-limb Raja yoga.

Ahimsa ultimately translates as “non violence” and to practice ahimsa is to practice compassion and kindness to all living things, which is a pretty common sense moral principle that we all know to be ideal in a peaceful society.  But I will never forget the day my yoga instructor reminded me that in yoga, Ahimsa also means non violence to oneself.  To recognize that any unkind, destructive comment or judgment we make of ourselves is harmful, and any thought or deed that prevents me or someone else from growing healthily and living freely is one of violence.  For me, this brought out a realization of how my judgmental  thoughts of myself were preventing me from living a life of freedom and growth.

Recognizing patterns of thinking, and sometimes acting, in hurtful, judgmental ways is step one of the liberation.  Pushing beyond your current physical limitations, for example, is not honoring the body, and in essence is being violent to yourself.  Also, learning to listen to negative or judgmental messages you may be telling yourself throughout a class.  For instance, “I’m not good at balancing”, “I need to lose weight”, or “I’m not strong enough to keep holding this pose” are self-defeating. Becoming a witness to your own internal dialogue and listening to the sensations in the body are critical to achieving growth in practice and spirit.

Once you’ve recognized your criticisms or, perhaps, punishing behaviours it is important to replace these hurtful patterns with an attitude of compassion and acceptance.  You may not be happy with all aspects of your self, both on your mat and your life, and some of these things are changeable while others are not.  Acceptance of how you are at this present time, however, is imperative for growth.  Who you are, right now, is all that you know to be true.  And without acceptance of the present, you have no reality or foundation from which to work on towards change in the future.

Accept yourself at least for one class, just as you are.  Be a witness to your truth – don’t hold back, but don’t push beyond your honest limits, and learn how practicing this acceptance and tolerance towards yourself puts health and kindness in your practice, and ultimately moves society closer towards peace one person at a time.  Ahimsa.

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