Tuesday, September 13, 2011

When I Breathe In

When I breathe in, I breathe in peace
When I breathe out, I breathe out love

My husband, Ed, and I are members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester (UUFNW or "the UU" as we like to call it).  The words above are from a beautiful song written by Sarah Dan Jones, that was featured at this week's Sunday service commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

Singing these uplifting lyrics with the UU congregation immediately brought to mind the yogic practice of Pranayama.  In the past I've focused my Pranayama efforts on manipulating my own internal life force or spirit, but the chorus of Sarah Dan Jones's song has inspired me to use my breath to change not only my own Prana, but the energy of the world around me as well.

During the past few days I've found myself slipping into informal Pranayama sessions at unexpected moments, slowing my breath into a steady rhythm, inhaling peace, holding it in, and exhaling love.  I've filled my lungs with air and tranquility while nursing my baby boy, and emptied them, expelling compassion and joy into the world while navigating through rush hour traffic.  I've breathed in acceptance and contentment while scrubbing dishes, and breathed out affection and appreciation while standing in a long line at Target.

These unanticipated periods of Pranayama have reminded me that my yoga practice doesn't just happen on the mat, and it isn't just about my own body and spirit.  I'm practicing yoga every moment of the day, with every breath I take.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Asanas and Apple Pies

It’s September again - I always look forward to this time of year, planning trips to the local orchard to pick crisp, sun-warmed apples from gnarled branches weighed down with the crimson fruit.  I love cool autumnal mornings when I can pull on an old pair of boots and a fluffy scarf and stroll through the quaint suburban town of Katonah where I live, noting the subtle changes of pigment in the canopy of foliage overhead.

September is a great time for apple-picking and long scenic walks...it’s also National Yoga Month.  All of the current yoga-related buzz on-line and in magazines has made me long for the days when I used to spend several hours a week at a yoga studio, immersing myself in discussions of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, regulating my breath with Pranayama, moving my body through Vinyasa sequences, relaxing my busy mind during Savasana. Much to my surprise, I even miss the many hours I spent struggling with meditation.

These days, being a stay-at-home mom to a beautiful five-month-old baby boy, I don’t have the time to spend a few hours a day at my old yoga studio - and with our family of three living off of my husband’s income, we certainly don’t have the money for it either.  For the past few years, I’ve convinced myself that I simply don’t have the time or money to practice yoga, promising myself that “someday” I’ll get back to the studio again...I’m tired of waiting for “someday.”  I need to find a way to continue my yoga practice at home, today.

It’s the first week of school for many students in New York, and, feeling inspired by all of the "back-to-school" energy in the air, I've decided it's my first week of “Yoga home-schooling.”   My school supplies include an old yoga mat, a few props and DVDs, and a lot of yoga books from the local library.  My uniform is a pair of stretchy faded black pants, a fitted cotton shirt and bare feet, and my classroom is my living room. I've got a jam-packed class schedule - intro to Ayurveda, intermediate Asanas, Chakras 101 - and I'll have to fit in my studies whenever my son, Dylan, is sleeping.

This September I still plan on picking fresh nutritious apples and baking them into all sorts of delicious unhealthy things, but I plan on spending more time rolling out my yoga mat than rolling out pie crusts.