Since the pandemic lock downs, people have been suffering more and more from bad “home officing”. Unfortunately, the conditions at home are not always adequate to spend 8 hours in front of a computer. In addition, computers entered our lives at full speed, but lessons on computer health have somehow not made it to the table. This is why I created this workshop on “How to set up an ergonomic home office” for businesses and the general public. In this workshop we explore how to better computer work-conditions. Furthermore, we explore the basics of computer health. If you, too, wish to request this workshop for your business or for the general public, please get in touch! Since this workshop is given online, you can request it from any country in the world.
Computers entered our lives at full speed, but lessons on computer health have somehow not made it to the table….
Here are some testimonials from the ergonomic home office workshop:
Easy to follow. Immediately noticed the impact of the infrastructure on my posture.
Great topic, wonderful trainer, good and practical tips.
Very practical tips for low budget home office.
Very understanding about the issues different people face. In addition, very relevant for working from home.
The examples and how she decided to set up the office on the spot were nice, because we could follow more easily instead of doing it later on our own (wherein we might forget things already).
The trainer provided a complete overview of how to best prepare your home office for better posture/ergonomics at home.
very interesting, high quality content and teaching, very useful and motivating.
Felt the benefits immediately after implementing just the first changes.
Very nice flow of explaining & showing & exercises and a very friendly atmosphere! I loved the performance of the different curves-gone-offroad-postures
Much more aware of the importance of taking care of my eyes now!
I loved this “How to set up an Ergonomic Home Office” Workshop! Eye opening!
Testimonials from EYB workshop participants
About the teacher:
Beginning her yoga journey in 1999, Pinelopi completed a 600 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher and Vedantic Philosophy Training course over a period of two years in Valencia, Spain. For over a decade, she has worked as a full-time yoga teacher in Spain and in 2010 she founded English Yoga Berlin.
She, then, deepened her knowledge through studying Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff . Meanwhile, she also studied with David Moore and attended several of his “Injury-free yoga” workshops of how to apply the Alexander Technique postural alignment to yoga poses.
During Alexander Technique lessons the student learns how to break deeply embedded habits and create new ones. This happens while working together with a teacher in different positions: sitting; standing; walking; laying down on a massage table (aka table work). While the teacher performs table work, new students often misunderstand this part of the lesson as receiving a massage. However, although there can be similarities, table work differs to massage in many ways.
Direct Versus Indirect Approach
A massage therapist works with a direct approach. What this means is that they often release tension through using a deep tissue touch. They often focus on a specific problem that there client might be feeling in their body, and are working directly to release the tension around that problem. An Alexander Technique (AT) teacher, on the other hand, uses an indirect approach while performing table work. Their touch is a very light touch and does not go into deep tissue release. The release the student experiences is through giving themselves directions while assisted by the teacher’s hands. If a student is experiencing a specific problem, say pain in the shoulder blade, an AT teacher will not work directly with the shoulder blade or nearby muscles. Instead, they will focus on the coordination of the whole body and thus affect the shoulder blade indirectly.
A massage predominantly addresses muscles which then gives a feeling of release to their client. Table work predominantly addresses the nervous system which also gives a feeling of release, through enhancing overall coordination. Both methods provide release. One approaches it directly, the other one approaches it indirectly.
Student Versus Client
In the Alexander Technique we talk of ‘students’ and ‘teachers’. In massage there is the ‘massage therapist’ and ‘the client’. What is the difference?
The Alexander Technique is a learning method and a re-education of our nervous system. When receiving a class there is active participation from the student, even during table work. The teacher’s light touch only gives the student a stimulus inviting them to be active in their release process.
Receiving a massage, on the other hand, tends to be more uni-directional. The massage therapist gives the massage, the client receives it. The massage is something that is done to the client, and requires no active participation from the client. Massage offers an experience to the client, while table work offers a release of undue tension with the purpose to help the student experience and learn to use their body differently.
Let us take the previous example of the pain in the shoulder blade. A massage can work on releasing that pain, but it will not focus on how the student got the pain in the first place. The Alexander Technique will work on recognizing the habits that brought around the issue. It is a learning process, involving a student and a teacher.
Massage often is about relaxation, healing and therapy with a massage therapist providing the experience. An Alexander Technique teacher, is more focused on the learning process of the students and its nervous system. Although the Alexander Technique has therapeutic effects, these are more a by-product of the technique. The focus is learning.
Lying Down Versus Semi Supine
In most massages the clients are laying down on their backs or on their bellies with the legs stretched out.
In table work, the students are laying down in the semi supine pose. This pose is used in order to create the most balanced relationship between our neck, head, and back. Again, the purpose here is the coordination of the whole body.
Skin Contact Versus Clothes
Many massage methods (but definitely not all of them) require you to take your clothes off so that the massage therapist works directly with skin contact and oils. In AT table work, the student keeps their clothes on and there is no direct skin contact. It is, however, recommended that the student wears comfortable clothing that allows the teacher to move the legs and arms easily.
Eyes Open Versus Eyes Closed
From my understanding, in most massages the client can choose what they do with their eyes. It is common for people to close their eyes when they undergo a deep relaxation and a release of tension. Thus, although closing the eyes is not explicitly asked for during massage, it tends to happen on its own.
In the Alexander Technique the student is asked to keep their eyes open during table work – if not for the whole time, then at least most of the time. This was for me, personally, very challenging at the beginning. The reason for open eyes is to learn to let go while remaining present with the world around us. We often get carried away with the visual stimuli in our every day life. Part of the AT re-education includes ‘how can I be with you and stay with myself at the same time?’
So How Does massage differ to Alexander Technique Table Work?
First, let me say that I am using a very general term here when I am referring to massage. Massage comes in many different shapes and forms. There are massages with clothes on and off; massages with different degrees of therapeutic capacities; massages that when done regularly are also creating a re-learning and re-organizing of the body.
The purpose of this article is to try and create a more accurate picture of what to expect during AT table work.
So to sum it all up, here is what to expect:
The teacher uses a very light touch creating a stimulus for the student’s body to do the releasing.
The teacher will use an indirect approach and will focus on the overall coordination of the body.
Even during table work the student is invited to actively participate in the release of tension.
Therapeutic effects are by-products of the Alexander Technique. The focus is on re-education, not healing.
The student lies down in the semi-supine during table work.
Table work happens with clothes on.
The student is invited to keep their eyes open.
About the Author:
Pinelopi is in her 3rd year of the Alexander Technique teacher training course, studying with Jorg Asshof in Berlin. She is now taking on Alexander Technique tester students. She is working at half price (25€) until she graduates in the spring of 2023.
Pinelopi completed a 600 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher and Vedantic Philosophy Training course over a period of two years in Valencia, Spain. For over a decade, she has worked as a full-time yoga teacher in Spain and in 2010 she founded English Yoga Berlin. Currently she is deepening her knowledge through Leslie Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy Course, David Moore’s “Injury-free yoga” applying the Alexander Technique postural alignment to all yoga poses. Her workshops and retreats are inspired by Tara Brach‘s teachings.
This two-part online workshop focuses on how to set up an ergonomic office at home to minimize pain from long hours of working on the computer.
At the beginning of the corona virus lock down it felt okay to set up an office in whatever way possible. Many of us worked from the couch, the kitchen table, and in between home schooling. No one was thinking about setting up a proper ergonomic office space at home. After all, in a couple of months everyone would be working at the ‘real’ office again, in a quiet environment without many distractions. Or so we all thought…
The lock down has now continued for over a year and it also reshaped our ways of working in general. One day, many will return to the office. Nonetheless, many others will also continue to work from home as the work situation becomes ever more flexible. As we become more aware of this fact, we realize how important it is to invest time and effort into making our home office more ergonomic.
In this two-part workshop, we look at all aspects of how to set up an ergonomic home office. This ergonomic home office workshop guides working practices that provide good health and an increase of productivity. We look into the basics of posture, as well as back, wrist and eye care. We also explore the proportion of working while sitting, standing and walking; and the quality and frequency of our breaks. Furthermore, we examine the infrastructure used, such as the height of the table, chair, monitor, type of keyboard and mouse. The suggestions of how to improve office infrastructure include a diverse range from DIY ideas or cheap props to a glimpse of what is available on the market. The workshop is given via ZOOM and includes both mindfulness and practical exercises, as well as a short stretching session.
This workshop is for all businesses that are interested in improving their employees’ work health and safety. Employees do not need to have any yoga or mindfulness experience to participate. Likewise, employees do not need to have any fancy office equipment at home. The workshop is designed to help employees create a better working environment starting from exactly where they are. It is limited to 50 participants.
This two part workshop is given on two separate days so that employees have time to integrate the information.
PART ONE: posture, infrastructure, quality of breaks (1 hour and 10 minutes long)
PART TWO: wrist care, eye care, general environment, questions (1 hour and 10 minutes long)
At the end of the workshop, employees receive detailed notes summarizing what we covered in the workshop with many links so that they can do further research on their particular office issue.
Corporate Base Rates:
The corporate base rates for the two part workshop are the following:
300 Euro for the entire workshop for a group up to 12 people
+ 2.5 Euro for each additional person
About the teacher:
Pinelopi has studied Geography in the Biological School of Sciences of Sussex University. Beginning her yoga journey in 1999, Pinelopi completed a 600 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher and Vedantic Philosophy Training course over a period of two years in Valencia, Spain. For over a decade, she has worked as a full-time yoga teacher in Spain and in 2010 she founded English Yoga Berlin. Currently she is deepening her knowledge through Leslie Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy Course, David Moore’s “Injury-free yoga” applying the Alexander Technique postural alignment to all yoga poses and is studying with Jorg Asshof to become an Alexander Technique teacher. Her workshops and retreats are inspired by Tara Brach‘s teachings.
Request the Workshop for your company:
Pleas write an email to discuss further details and dates for your company.
In the past 13 years of teaching yoga, a few students have approached me to ask about how to become a yoga teacher and what things to consider. This is an important decision for those of us choosing to take this path. Before you embark on searching for the yoga teacher training course (TTC) of your dreams take a moment to consider the following questions.
Why do you want to become a yoga teacher?
Let us start with the basics: why do you want to become a yoga teacher? Although it sounds obvious, it is worth sitting with the question to get some clarity. Some people wish to become a yoga teacher simply as a means to deepen their knowledge on yoga. They do not necessarily wish to teach afterwards. This is a perfectly acceptable reason to join a TTC. To reach such an in-depth knowledge usually can only come from a TTC, living in an ashram and serious self-study.
Others, on the other hand, have their mind set on teaching. They want to get a good certificate that will allow them to work afterwards. If this is your reason for joining a course, then take a moment to visualize your future. What images come up for you when you visualize this? Do you see yourself giving hands on corrections to your students? Are you guiding a meditation? Or alternatively, do you see yourself explaining complex spiritual notions to a group of people? Or are you simply holding space for your students to go through their own process? Use the images that arise as a compass to guide you through the different TTCs that exist, so that you choose the right one for you.
What style and lineage of yoga should you choose?
It is important to know what kind of yoga style you like. Search for a TTC that aligns to this style. Other than just the style, you also have to look at the lineage of the yoga teacher training course. For example, a Hatha Yoga class from the Sivananda lineage can be quite different to one from the Desikachar lineage. Sometimes concepts as basic as the breath can be taught differently and even contradict each other! I do find it worthwhile to spend some time reflecting and researching on these points. A yoga TTC is a big investment, so go and try out different styles, find out what lineage they follow. Make notes, keep an open heart, and learn what you like.
Yoga Lineage is not simple and straightforward
Lineage can be complicated as we are following the teachings handed down over several centuries. Furthermore, in the past decades there has been increasing amount of proof that quite a few important yoga masters and gurus have sexually harassed and abused their students over the years. Although, the teacher you choose is not directly related to the yoga guru of their lineage, it can be quite devastating to find out half way through your training course that the yoga lineage you chose has such dark secrets. One way to go about this is to ask your teacher about their stance on their lineage. If your teacher is treating their guru with unshakable reverence and is not able to condemn an action of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, then you should probably find a different teacher. If on the other hand, they are able to demonstrate critical thinking, can clearly disagree with such actions and empower students and teachers to challenge dogma… then they might be a better fit.
What is important for YOU to have in a yoga course?
Not all courses are alike. Some give much more weight to anatomy and alignment. Others are much more focused on yogic philosophy, spirituality and meditation. A few others focus more on how to lead groups, to hold space, and methodologies of teaching. How do you know which kind of course you are about to embark on? Ask for a copy of their curriculum to check out what they offer. Although all good courses will have a mix of all these things, find out where your TTC puts most of its weight. Does that align with what your wishes are?
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right TTC. These first questions and reflections are a good starting point. In part two of this blog I will discuss the difference in diplomas (200H, 500H, 600H); the importance of connecting with your teacher; some yoga teacher training courses in Berlin; and the teachers that have inspired me personally. Till then, get to know the difference in yoga styles, find out about their lineage, and check out some curricula.
Most probably, we have all heard the term “grounded” at some time in our lives. To ‘be grounded’ is a term that describes an experience of presence with whatever it is that we are doing at the moment. As the word suggests, I like to think of it as ‘being aware of my feet on the ground.’ When I am not grounded, I feel myself lost in thought and distracted from the realms of my mind- forgetting the body. When I am grounded, I notice things such as my rib cage moving with my breath, the sensations in my feet and the dryness of my lips. In other words, I am embodied- aware of what is happening in my body.
Most of us tend to be lost in thought throughout our days. As we lose ourselves in thought we are usually reliving past moments of our lives; imagining future ones; or worrying about possible scenarios in an alternate reality. To sum it up: as we lose ourselves in thought we are no longer living in the present – in the here and now.
The Nature of the Mind
It is normal for the mind to jump from one place to another making thousands of associations every minute. It is normal to associate the past with the possible future and alternative scenarios. There is nothing wrong with a mind that does that. On the contrary, it is even essential to our survival. It is the reason we have been able to make so many technological wonders and many more modern life marvels. However, if we find ourselves predominantly in the ‘lost in thought’ mode, life becomes tiring and seems to fly right past us. Taking a moment to pause, to slow down and experience the ‘Now’ is essential to living a life with quality.
How Can I Ground Myself?
There are many ways to ground oneself. These include practicing meditation and mindfulness, slowing down, becoming aware of our breath, and awareness of body sensations. The first step to grounding is to actually notice that we have lost ourselves in thoughts. This first step sounds much easier than it is, because we spend most of our time literally “lost“. Performing this first step is already a moment of awakening. Next, we could choose our favorite grounding technique to apply in order to become more embodied. I use several grounding techniques during our yoga classes in Kreuzberg. Here is one of my favorites:
5 – Name five things that you see.Do not just think ‘this’ and ‘that’, but instead use their actual name such as green grass, white cloud, brown shoes.
4 – Name four things that you feel.Name sensations rather than emotions. Ie. the air in my nose, my heels on the floor, my shirt on my skin.
3 – Name three sounds that you hear.
2 – Name two odors that you smell.Some people find smelling challenging. If that is the case, you can also name two smells that you like instead.
1- Name one thing this experience is giving you.For example, ‘this experience is giving me a moment to slow down; presence; connecting with my body, etc.
How to practice 54321
You can practice this grounding exercise any time you feel the need to ground. This is also a very good exercise if you feel the onset of a panic attack or anxiety. I like to start my yoga practice with 54321 as I ground myself and am more present during the session. Another way to practice is while taking a walk. You can do 54321 on repeat and become more aware of your surroundings and your body sensations.
Haven’t we all had the experience of being in a beautiful place on holiday wishing to enjoy the moment, and instead have been worrying incessantly about some other aspect of our life? When this happens to me, I always return to 54321 and take in the sounds, smells, sensations, and sights!
2020 has come to an end, and it is fair to say that many were happy to turn the year. As midnight approached, I heard sighs of relief from many neighbors welcoming the year through their open windows. This year has been a hard year for all of us in more ways than one.
Interestingly enough, for some of the more fortunate ones living in countries with social systems and economic help, this has also been a good year in some respects. Some people told me how they so desperately had needed to slow down and how these lock downs allowed them to do so; others realized how over stimulated they have been with social interactions and how as they came out of the first lock down they were more careful to re-build their social life in a more sustainable way; many others spoke of physical rest from the never-ending commuting and realizing how much this has been taxing on their overall health.
Looking Forward to a Conscious 2021
With the arrivals of the vaccines, I have read that we can probably resume our “normal” lives in April 2021. The life after the pandemic can not and should not be the same as it was before. I am hoping for a rise in consciousness both in the personal way we live our lives, the economic systems that shape them, as in the global way we treat the planet and each other. I am wishing for a conscious 2021.
It is good to pause and reflect on the hardships of the past year, but also on if there has been any parts of this year that has been positive for us. How do we see ourselves integrating the parts that are positive in a post-lock down world? Have our bodies and minds been asking for more rest? Can telecommunications take over taxing commuting? Do we wish to be more selective of our social interactions in terms of quality versus quantity?
Pausing in the Present
Of course, due to the capitalistic society we live in, our lives are often being swept away by a wave of productivity, not allowing us time or the resources to pause and choose. However, pausing and choosing is absolutely essential.Viktor E. Frankl, a renown psychologist and holocaust survivor, refers to this pause as “a space that allows us to choose our response”. In yoga this pause is the act of meditation. In the Alexander Technique this pause is referred to as “inhibition”. Tara Brach refers to this as the Sacred Pause: the pause between stimulus and reaction, that frees us to the possibility of a different path.
So for 2021, my wish to the world is:
May we all practice the Sacred Pause and be free to choose a different path.
In Part 1 of this blog I introduced Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation and how it can be used on the deep rooted feeling of wanting and addiction. As I started to deepen my thoughts around the subject, I realized that I have never once simply sat with the feeling of wanting TV. I always either react quickly by giving in to the feeling (turning on Netflix) or by coming down very harshly on myself for wanting this (not allowing the feeling to be here and pushing it out with harsh words). Therefore, I took the decision to practice RAIN the next time the feeling arises!
Resistance to bringing the RAIN meditation on wanting
The first thing I noticed when the feeling next arose was that I definitely did not want to practice the RAIN meditation on wanting! The feeling itself was strong and pulling towards action and was refusing to be the object of quiet observation. I had to make a deal with myself in order to practice. Much like I talk to my daughter, my mother voice came in my thoughts and said to the feeling, “Hey, listen I am not saying no to watching TV. I am saying we will observe the feeling for a while, practice RAIN and then if we still want to, we will watch TV. We will just have done it consciously. That’s all.” Just like a small child, the feeling answered, “Do you promise?!! This is not some trick to take me away from the well deserved rest we need?”. The more conscious part of me was able to respond quietly, “Yes, I promise. I am happy to watch TV if we have made a conscious kind decision about it.” Reluctantly, the feeling agreed to being observed.
Recognize is the R in RAIN
I started by giving a name to this feeling. I called it “wanting”. The first step is to name it. As you name it, you also shape it. It becomes an entity that has a bit more well-defined boundaries. This helps take it out from a nebulous kind of feeling that oozes everywhere in my subconscious to something more concrete that I can open myself up to.
Allow is the A in RAIN
The second step was to allow it to be here exactly as it is. This was incredibly difficult. Realizing how much resistance I carry towards this feeling was mind blowing. It was eye opening to realize that I never even considered allowing to be an option before now. As I formulated the words in my mind “I allow the Wanting to be here” , things started to move in my body and I was able to see the true power this feeling holds over me.
Investigate is the I in RAIN
The third step of RAIN is Investigate. Where is this feeling in the body and how does it manifest? The trick here is to stay focused on the body, not on the mind and its millions of thoughts and analyses. As I came to this step, the first thing I realized is that this feeling is very alive in my body. It is mostly in my chest and it is very strong. It has a one-pointed quality to it that is intensely forward looking. I stayed for two minutes in this step simply naming the experience: chest clenched; pointy – pushing outward; rush; pinch in the back of my neck; eyebrow center scrunched; belly empty; chest clenched; strong flow of direction forward; pulling; skin prickly; chest clenched.
It has a one-pointed quality to it that is intensely forward looking…
As I came to the N of RAIN, I was called to nurture the feeling. There was, by now, no doubt in my mind that this feeling was much stronger than I ever gave it credit for. I started by asking the feeling of wanting, what do you need? The answer was immediate, “I am tired! So so tired! I just want to relax and disconnect. I am running all day long juggling five different roles and I am truly tired. Let me disconnect”.
So I placed my hand on my heart and with compassion responded with what the feeling needed. “I see how tired you are”, I told myself with love. “I am here for you. In this moment here we are disconnecting from the running machine of life. In this moment now we are disconnecting and re-connecting. I see you and I am here for you. I see you and I am here for you.” I kept on telling myself these words on repeat. As I did this, my compassion for myself started to grow. As it grew, everything in me started to soften. Everything started to feel less immediate, less pointy, less intense.
After The RAIN meditation
Tara Brach often gives the example of the ocean and the wave as a practice one can do after the practice of RAIN. This image has become one of the strongest guides in my life in the past years. Think of this feeling you are now experiencing as one wave in an ocean. The wave belongs to the ocean just as this feeling belongs to you. But the whole ocean can not possibly enter in a single wave. You are the ocean, not the wave. When I can finally connect to my “Oceanness” is when I enter the sweetest meditation space I know. There is no denying that this wanting feeling is very strong. It is a big wave. Nonetheless, I have been reducing my whole Self to a wave whenever I experience it, thinking it defines me. I am much more than that, I am the whole Ocean itself. I stayed meditating on the sweetness of my “Oceanness” for a while and it was touching.
Funnily enough, when I came out of the meditation, I was inspired to jot down ideas for this blog, looked up articles on the addictive power of TV to reference, listened to music and……I sincerely forgot to watch TV! I simply forgot. Later my partner came in the living room and we had a sweet moment of connection that I would have missed out on had I not paused to do RAIN and had I been immersed in the TV world.
RAIN meditation on wanting was definitely an exploration worth doing!
A personal story on wanting – meditation on addiction
Four years ago I discovered Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation. It is not an exaggeration to say that it changed my life. Since then, I have read all of her books; have listened to hundreds of her podcasts; practiced daily; presented the meditation to my yoga students in Berlin and applied it to better understanding my daughter’s emotional world.
RAIN is a meditation that guides you through an emotion rather than around an emotion. RAIN is an acronym and each letter stands for a step to follow as you meditate:
R is for Recognize what you are feeling.
A is for Allow the feeling to be here as it is.
I is for Investigate where the feeling is in your body (this is not a mental investigation as to why this feeling is here).
When I was reading Tara’s Radical Acceptance I stumbled upon a chapter called “RAIN on Wanting”. This chapter was dedicated to how to use RAIN meditation on addiction and addictive behaviors. It got me thinking about if I have any addictive behaviors myself. The only thing I came up with that may be problematic was that I go through periods of time where I get totally wrapped in watching a series on Netflix. This is not constant and I still go to work and parent lovingly so I have never considered it to be an addiction. On the other hand, when I go through this it sometimes feel like I can not break the spell.
… when I go through this it sometimes feels like I can not break the spell.
Can series watching be an addiction?
Is this really a problem? Could it be an addiction? I sway between two poles when I think of this. On the one hand, I believe in the power of stories. It can be an art form of both entertainment but also (when watching something of quality) self discovery and empathy. Being put into another person’s shoes, living through the lens of their eyes, and opening yourself to other point of views carries beautiful transformative power. On the other hand, series watching also has an addictive sort of power to it. I feel that there are so many other things I could do in the evenings. Things that I equally love, such as listening to or playing music, drawing, singing or talking to a friend on the phone. Unfortunately, I often feel too tired to do any of these at the end of the day and turn to TV as a passive form of entertainment ending up to be my default choice.
Have you ever meditated on the feeling of wanting?
One thing that I realized as I pondered on these thoughts, was that I never ever have simply sat with the feeling of “wanting tv”. When this feeling of wanting arises there are two possible extremes that I react with. I either give in to it (turn on Netflix) or I come down very strongly on myself for having it (no! You have to work in the morning! And one episode will lead to another! And no, this is just not an option right now so stop feeling it!). Both the meditation world, as much as the psychological world, say that sitting with a feeling is important. This is something that I definitely practice a lot with other feelings in my life through RAIN and other techniques. So it was a big surprise for me to realize that there is one feeling – the feeling of wanting TV- that I have not sat with. I always react swiftly to it and never allow it to be. I either immediately act on it or push it away. What would bringing the RAIN meditation on addiction be like?
So I thought that next time the feeling arises I will pause and practice RAIN on wanting. I was curious to see if this would be helpful or give me new insights on the way I approach the subject. On Part 2 of this blog I will outline what happened during the meditation session. But till then, maybe some readers want to try out RAIN on Wanting on their own?
We often hear the words “let go” both in yoga classes and in the meditation world in general. These are powerful words, but alas, their meaning is not often clear. We created this little poem to help clarify our interpretation of the meaning behind the words “to let go”. Understanding the subtle meaning that these words carry can make a big difference in the way we practice the action of letting go. And yes, it does take practice. Letting go does not mean that one immerses themselves in a laissez faire way of life. It takes practice, as well as intention and effort. Despite the effort, making letting go part of your daily practice is very worthwhile as it lightens your heart and frees you in many ways.
Letting go is the hardest Asana.
Letting go is not letting go of a feeling, but freeing oneself from the power the feeling holds over them.
Letting go is not forced forgiveness, it is freeing one’s heart from somebody else’s power.
Letting go is not consenting to a harmful situation, but to stop reliving the situation in one’s mind on repeat.
Letting go is not forgetting the past, but to let go of the deep held belief that the past should have been different.
Letting go is not easy, it takes introspection and courage.
Letting go is not inaction, it requires effort and intention.
When letting go feels impossible, let the intention to let go be enough.
During my Alexander Technique teacher trainers’ course last week we were asked to think of how we could translate the experience of the Alexander Technique in words; if it is possible to do so accurately; and if it is desirable to do so. How can words be used as a tool to truly describe an experience?
This exercise got us thinking about the power of words, as well as the place of words. When do words fall short? When do they become dangerously full of themselves? As my fellow students were speaking I started to make many parallels to meditation and how hard it is to explain the experience one lives when they are deep in the stillness of the Self.
Words as a mere tool
I see both the Alexander Technique lessons that I receive and the practice of deep meditation first and foremost as a deep experience of the Self. As such, it is impossible to truly explain accurately this experience by using mere words. It is important to give words their “right place” when using them descriptively. They can be a helpful tool that bring people closer to the experience but they must by all means remain just that: a tool.
When words become more than a tool
When a teacher gives much more weight to the words used rather than the experience had, they run the danger of clinging onto their words and teaching in a dogmatic way. Whats more is that if a student is not experiencing exactly what the teacher described, the student can start to believe that their own experience is “wrong” and may decide to give up on their path. When words are used as a tool, though, and not as “the truth” they can allow the student room to have their own experience and brave the path ahead.
When words become empty
On the other hand, words can also go to the other extreme and become empty. If the teacher always uses the habitual ones to guide you in the practice, they are no longer choosing them. They use them out of habit and thus they start to lose their meaning. For instance, the meditation teacher who says “empty your mind” on repeat while their mind is running through their long to do list. When a teacher uses their words out of habit without putting weight behind them, they run the danger of teaching on automatic pilot missing out on true presence.
But what is one to do then? Can one truly explain the deep experience of meditation with words or is it a mistake to even try to do so? A Zen Master put this beautifully:
When I talk, you do not understand me.
When I do not talk, you understand even less.
As teachers, we must try to find the right words to explain the path of how to experience the Self. But we must always remember that words are not and will never be enough. Words do have power and thus it is important to not get over attached to the ones we choose, or else we run the danger of excluding multi-faceted experiences. Nonetheless, words with no weight behind them become empty words that have lost their meaning and do not help the student advance. So may we learn to use them simply as a tool, to be playful with them, to choose them with care and to not be afraid to let them go.
Svastha Yogatherapy – Vinyasa Flow Yoga by Juli….. A gentle Vinaysa Yoga Flow class in a queer and trans* positive space where gender binaries are viewed post-structurally and heteronormativity is challenged. Allies are welcome. This Vinyasa Flow yoga is slower than most, focusing on techniques of Svastha Yogatherapy – strengthening …