The Slow Yoga Series, Vol. 5

In my last post I told you to have fun. I gave you permission to play. I said make things up. I basically said break every rule you need to break to ditch the stale regurgitated bullshit that slowly bleeds all the relevance out of a thing once it goes mainstream. I still stand by all that advice. However, this is about Slow Yoga. After our dance parties and hell-raising we return to the mat to slow down, settle down, re-ground, and gain ground. When that happens…

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If you can’t hear yourself breathing the music is too loud. The breath moving into and out of your body is meant to be observed by all of your senses. Hearing is one of your senses. We tune in to the movement of our energy when we tune in the movement of our breath. If you can’t hear it, you’re missing out on over half of your chosen pose. It’s not just the posture. It’s the body’s response to the posture. That response is communicated to us through heat, sensation, and sound. Leave the music low enough that you can hear your body communicating.

Yoga teachers will balk at this one, no doubt, but I’ve tried it both ways. I’ve tried it all the ways. I’ve been to classes where the teacher had to scream over the music. I’ve been to classes where the teacher used no music at all, not even for Savasana. Most classes fall somewhere in between those two extremes. For Slow Yoga, hearing the movement of the breath is the perfect complement to feeling the movement of the breath. Think immersion. Think full-body experience. All the senses available, present, and engaged.

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Better clothes have never made a better yogi. Only practice makes a better yogi. You can practice in anything. You can practice in nothing. If something you’re wearing isn’t well-suited for practice you will figure it out quickly enough. You’ll know what works and what doesn’t. You don’t need a dress code. Maybe it matters a little in a public yoga class but on your own time, in your own space, it matters not. Even in class it matters less than you think. No one is looking at your clothes after the warm-up. You probably aren’t sizing up any outfits after the first round of salutations. It’s silly to let it matter so much.

I sat through teacher trainings in which my instructors preached to me rules of clothing etiquette I was supposed to enforce as a future teacher. I digested all the crap disguised as guidance but once I started teaching real people with real bodies and real issues I realized it was all crap. If teenage boys need to keep their socks on to hide toenail fungus, I let them. If a fellow didn’t know that running shorts would not keep his scrotum secure, I overlooked it. If women came to class in baggy t-shirts because they couldn’t afford anything else, I was happy to have them. It doesn’t matter. Boobs fall out of expensive clothes the same as they do cheap ones. Balls get twisted in saggy britches just as easily as they do in fitted ones. Panties show. Wedgies happen. Things flip and roll and ride up and it does not matter.

I have practiced naked. I have practiced in underwear. I have practiced in a bathing suit on a boat dock. I have practiced in the woods in hiking boots. I have practiced in a parking lot wearing running clothes. I have walked in the door of my home, kicked off my shoes, gone straight to my mat and practiced in the dress I wore to work that day. Never, not even one time, have I reached some mythical proportion of bliss in a pose based on an article of clothing. Never have I been denied any benefit of yoga based on the lack of a particular article of clothing. It’s all fluff.

Wear pretty yoga clothes because they are pretty if that’s your thing, but rooted in your breath your body will not be able to tell the difference between $80 designer pants or holey sweats. The body is not affected by a yoga necklace, a Namaste headband, or even a yoga-related tattoo. The body is begging for our attention in our practice, not better wrapping paper.

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I believe strongly that if you have to spend the better part of your practice fighting your mat, that mat is doing more harm than good. You know what I’m talking about. Palms sliding forward in Downward Facing Dog. Back foot sliding away in Warrior II. Feet sliding apart while standing in a Wide-legged Forward Fold. I’ve seen with my own eyes yogis who stage their hands or feet in a certain place before moving into a pose because they know those hands or feet are going to end up somewhere else before the pose is finished. Get rid of that mat. Invest in a good one. When I say invest, I mean it. Good yoga mats are not cheap. They are hideously expensive. But this is one time when it does matter.

If you ask me for a recommendation I’m going to tell you the Jade Harmony, every time, and they don’t pay me to endorse. I wasted an embarrassing amount of money on yoga mats over the years. Jade is the only one that was ever worth the expense.

Slow Yoga requires us to get comfortable (or at least stable) and stay there a while. We can’t do that on mats that won’t facilitate safely staying in one place. I’ve been there, folks. A bad mat is a distraction and a liability. I’ve abstained from practicing certain poses because I was afraid of slippage on a crappy mat. I’ve been forced to hold back. Anger and frustration over a piece of equipment can and will ruin a practice. I’ve been preoccupied with my practice and forgotten to make allowances for my non-supportive mat, coming dangerously close to an injury when a leg slipped out from under me. It’s stupid. If you are doing this, stop it. It makes about as much sense as putting shitty tires on a new car.

Spend the money. Save the money. Ask for one as a holiday gift. Trade. Share. Rent-to-own. Just do whatever it takes to put yourself on a mat that doesn’t hinder your practice.

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