Gate gate paragate parasangate bodhi svāhā
"Gone, gone, really gone, beyond even the ultimate limitless. The highest wisdom remains when everything has dropped away."
From the Heart Sutra in the Buddhist Tradition.
Translation from the Jivamukti Yoga chant book.
Here are a few simple (and possibly really obvious ways) to bring Silence into yoga practice. It starts at the very beginning.
Step 1 - Walk, drive or cycle to and from your class in silence
Resist the urge to have music or the radio on before you come to class and after you leave.
So you can connect to the senses, what you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Appreciate the beauty around you, let nature calm you. Even if it's blowing a gale, allow yourself to be in that. If you are going to listen to something on the radio, tune into a spiritual podcast, or audiobook or listen to mantra, so you start to associate with like-minded people.
Step 2 - Practice being silent when you enter the studio (or the building).
Try not to stomp up the stairs and be noisy in the communal hallways. Lots of other people are around who may be concentrating or may not want to be disturbed. The therapy room is often in use when you're arriving and leaving for classes.
Step 3 - Move around the space mindfully.
Being quiet allows you to move around the space more elegantly. Stepping on other people's mats is a no-no, your yoga mat is your sacred space. Give people space.
The exceptions to this are:
Your yoga teacher moving into your space to give you some hands-on assistance. Of course, you have the right to say no to that so please make sure your teacher is aware at the beginning of the class.
Partner work. Always check with your partner that they are happy with you being in their space.
Group work that may involve moving around the space. Mats can always be moved out of the way.
Step 4 - Your personal things
Notice the importance you place on physical things like your phone and keys, and let your attachment to them go, you do not need to be on your phone in the studio. Leave your things outside the studio space, if they're valuable and you want us to shut the top door, we can. If your job requires you to be on call, that's fine, just keep your phone on silent and let us know.
Is there a way you could mindfully line your shoes up somewhere that's not blocking a doorway?
Step 5 - Be mindful of the way you put your things down.
Do you slam your mat down like it's the heaviest thing in the world? Or knock over your bricks and blocks...or worse still...your metal water bottle! Garrghhh!! When you bang and crash about, it can upset people's nervous systems and be distressing, especially after a nice long savasana. Start dropping the heaviness, by consciously placing your things (the word "vinyasa" actually means "to place in an ordered way").
Step 6 - Stop chatting
If you want the chatter in your mind to quieten down, then stopping the literal chatter is a good place to start. Yoga is an elevated spiritual practice, things like gossip and complaining are mundane, and they actually lower your vibration. There are 168 hours in a week, so your time in the studio is precious, make the most of it and save your chatting for after class. No one else needs to hear about the guy in the car park that annoyed you. Let the day-to-day, drop away. It'll be there to pick up after class if you so wish. Come in and lie down, meditate or start warming up your body so you get in the zone. So how to do that?
a) Easy Ways to lie down!
Grab a bolster, pop it under your knees
Lie down.... relax.
In savasana (relaxation pose) it's ideal to have your palms facing up by your sides and let the feet fall out to the side.
The physical act of lying down should remind your body of going to sleep at night time. To get to sleep, you must first relax. Now, we don't want you to fall asleep before class starts, but relaxing will make you more receptive to the teachings.
b) Easy ways to warm up
Lie on your back, make circles with your hips & ankles or roll around on your back to warm the spine.
Hamstring and calf muscle stretched
Hips & Shoulder stretches.
Don't worry if you're doing it right or wrong. Lighten up.
c) Easy ways to meditate:
Don't make a big deal of it
Just sit down in a steady comfortable position (cross-legged or kneeling)
Choose a meditation technique if you know a few OR use the simple one-breath meditation
Step 7ai) - Don't make a big deal of meditation
Did you know there is such a thing called a "One Breath Meditation"?
It is always possible to stop and bring your steady attention for one breath.
Breathe in, and feel all the sensations of breathing in.
Then let your body breathe however it wants to.
Look around for a moment or two. If you wish, adjust your posture and move your body a little.
If you feel called to, repeat the process. If not, crack on with what you were doing but hopefully with a quieter mind.
Over time and when you feel ready, you can lengthen to two or three-breath meditations.
The point is not to build up to a longer number of counts because you risk falling into a pattern of having to "achieve" a certain goal. This is just a really easy practical way to bring more peace, quiet and clarity to your day or the start of class. In each moment, all there is is this one breath.
Step 2b) - Still don't make a big deal out of meditation practice, but if you want to sit for longer than 1 breath, more will be revealed.
Sitting in silence illuminates what we're giving too much of our attention to and what we're avoiding. Do you know what I've discovered through meditation this month? Is that I use writing these blogs as a form of meditation and svadyaya, a time to focus my attention on just one thing, but I've realised I do make a big deal of it so I'm gonna let that go.
Sitting in silence does not require outer silence, you can use this one-breath meditation to start the process of self-enquiry and contemplation. Becoming fully aware of what is happening around you but staying fully present within yourself, gives you space to listen to the peace of the heart, which is our natural state of being. It gives rise to our intuition. We can ask questions about what we truly want and can listen to the answers. Thich Nhat Hahn says
"In the silence of the heart, God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you."
Sitting in silence helps to promote presence & connection. The Tibetan Buddhists have a practice called "Tonglen", tong means "giving and sending", and len means "receiving or taking" You simply breathe in whatever emotions or thoughts you're experiencing, with gentleness, not trying to push anything away, even if it feels uncomfortable, then breathe out whatever you feel would be useful for someone else experiencing the same as you. This practice gives us space to experience all it takes to be a human being in all its joy, delight, peace, happiness, anger, suffering, and pain. When we begin to have that presence of mind with ourselves we begin to see how alike others are to us and eventually see no others. We experience others' joy as our joy and others' suffering as our suffering. Eventually, in the gap between thoughts and feelings, there is no I & them, the "it" has all gone, gone gone. Dropped away. Only One. Yoga. Complete and utter connection.
And if all else fails,
Inhale (silently say) "Let"
Exhale (silently say) "Go"