Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dharana the Asanas

Not a proper use of Sanskrit grammar, I am quite sure! "Dharana" means concentration, and "asanas" are the various yoga positions and postures. Concentrating on the poses without being distracted by my chattering mind is always a great challenge for me. The mental part of yoga is much harder for me than the physical.

On Tuesday night, though, I felt a lot closer to what yoga is meant to be. I came into the class warmed up from 40 minutes on the elliptical, and that always makes me a little more relaxed and bendy than I would be if I came directly from work.

I vowed that if my mind wandered to distractions such as work, taking out the garbage, making dinner, Saturday's upcoming 15K, whether I had enough quart-size canning jars in the basement to make pickles, or various other disruptions, I would stop the the thought and return my attention to the yoga pose.

In each pose I focused either on the physical sensations of the position, or alternatively on the pose itself, picturing it in my mind. It sometimes helped to close my eyes for a moment, although generally you keep your eyes open in yoga, and closing my eyes always creates a slight chance that I might just fall asleep.

Occasionally I found myself thinking, "I am thinking about myself thinking about yoga."

Surprisingly, this intentional forced concentration helped reduce my obsessive clock watching. And when I did check the time I found that it had passed more quickly than usual!

My enhanced efforts at focus helped me appreciate the restorative aspects of our evening yoga practice. The instructor (whose classes I have now attended for almost four years) tends to use a lot of the poses and stretches that I like best—hip stretches and hip openers and twists of all kinds.

By the time we got to Shavasana (relaxation), I was just about a puddle of butter, with—dare I say it?—a quieted mind. And after Shavasana was done, I left in peaceful silence.

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