My family is obsessed with Star Wars. Yes, my son is eleven years old, but even without him, I have always been a sucker for an “underdog fighting for the freedom of the galaxy story.” So when the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, came to theaters, we made sure we were there on opening night. Our expectations were high, but they were surpassed. And as with most things, I found a way to relate this experience to my yoga practice.
I enjoy snorkeling, but it also scares me. The unexpected cold when my body hits the ocean for the first time, the eerie underwater environment and the challenge of breathing through a snorkel combine to make the experience stressful. I often start off in a bit of a panic, with rapid breathing, a pounding heart, and my mind racing. I eventually calm down and take in the sights, but it can be exhausting.
On my most recent trip to the Caribbean, I decided to try a new approach — yoga breathing. It worked famously!
There is nothing like practicing yoga at Solstice in Times Square. Bodies are packed together, each person with his or her own brightly colored mat right on the street. Every race, religion, body type, and walk of life is represented. Spectators line the designated yoga area taking pictures with astonished looks on their faces. Tourists wave and cheer from passing tour buses. Horns are honking. Taxi drivers are yelling. Neon signs flash with light and movement. It is mayhem, yet the practice is calm — an island of stillness in an ocean of clamor and noise.
It is what yoga is all about.
I meditate every weekday morning before Bikram Yoga class. Twenty minutes of quiet and stillness, preparing me for another 90 minutes of the same. It’s peaceful and keeps me calm. It even helps with my tinnitus. I love my weekday morning ritual.
But weekend mornings are different. I sleep later. The kids are home. There’s breakfast to savor and coffee to enjoy. The newspaper is waiting to be read. Lovely morning rituals, but different. My schedule is thrown off. Sometimes I forget to meditate.
I found meditation at a Japanese Buddhist Zen center in Crestone Colorado during a one-week yoga retreat. I had struggled with incorporating meditation into my daily life for several months, but for some reason, this retreat broke through. Maybe it was because the procedures were laid out so clearly up front. Since many of the attendees were new to meditation, the head monk gave a short talk on meditation the first night. He demonstrated how to sit, how to hold your hands and gave us three simple rules to follow.
1. Don’t move.
2. Don’t scratch.
3. Don’t invite your thoughts to tea.
Simple right? Not so much. Each rule, while simple in and of itself, encompasses an entire philosophy. Brilliant.