When Bad Habits Creep Back In

So far this summer, I have done a lot of traveling. This has been wonderfully fun and I wouldn’t change it, but it has been brutal for my Bikram yoga practice. While I typically practice 4-5 times per week during most of the year, so far this summer, I have practiced 4-5 times in total, and most of that was in the past week. It is bad. My body is not in top form, my muscles ache, and for better or for worse, the bad habits I have worked so hard to break this year have reared their ugly heads. Lucky for me, yoga is a practice, not a perfect, so I will have the opportunity to rebuild.

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Parlez-Vous Bikram?

I arrived early for class because it was a new studio for me, and a new language. I was going to take my first Bikram yoga class in Paris. The check-in proceeded well — the receptionist spoke English — but noticing the inadequacy of my “one year of French in college” language skills, she commented, “The class will be in French, will that be alright for you?” “I’ll do my best,” I replied. We both smiled, me a little bit nervously, but honestly, I was not worried. I knew the flow of the class and I felt that I would find my way using visual clues from the other practitioners if nothing else. I was right, but what I didn’t realize was how much of the dialogue I could still comprehend, despite not understanding the spoken words.

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Do You Ever Forget How To Breathe?

Sometimes, I forget how to breathe. Does this ever happen to you? Most often, this happens when I am concentrating on my breathing, like during the opening Bikram breathing exercise. When it is at its worst, I sometimes have to take a quick in and out breath while I am waiting for others to finish exhaling. This is especially true when the teacher is a slow counter. Rarely do I lose my breath to that extent during the rest of class, although sometimes in camel, but that’s another story.

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How Should We Breathe In Savasna?

I love savasna! I mean, who doesn’t? To me, savasna is the dessert after the healthy meal. It is the whipped cream on the sundae, the icing on the cupcake, the cashmere in the sweater. Alright, enough already, but as you can see, I like it very much. And it is an incredibly important part of the yoga practice as well, as it provides the opportunity for the body to absorb the benefits of the prior postures. A win-win situation if I every saw one.

While I know savasna has a proper form, I often just lie there comfortably in relaxation. Well, that is not exactly true. I do keep my heels together and let my toes drift out to the side, and I do keep my arms extended next to my body with my palms facing up. Other than that, I just lie there in heaven. But how should we be breathing in savasna?

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In Yoga, The Form Is the Substance

I’ve been thinking a lot about form over substance lately. Form over substance is the concept that the image or look of something matters more than the content or ideas behind it. We are working on a strategic plan at Hearing Health Foundation and while most of the strategic plan discussion centers on the organization’s mission and goals for the next five years, as it should, part of the conversation has been about the form of the plan.

For example, does it matter if the plan is a powerpoint document or a word document? Is it important to use images as part of the plan? Should we lead with the mission statement or the financial goals? In this situation, I think both the form and the substance are important, since the content is not helpful unless it is understood by others, but clearly the substance takes precedence.

This got me thinking about yoga (doesn’t everything?) and how in yoga, the form actually IS the substance. Doesn’t that make things simple?

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