Monday, July 11, 2011

40 Days of Yoga: Week Three Recap

The theme for last week -- our third of the 40 Days of Yoga challenge -- was equanimity. At least in my circles, that word does not come up very frequently, and I can't say that I could have given you a Merriam Webster-worthy definition on the spot. So, for my education as much as yours, I thought that I would do a bit of Wikipedia research on the concept. In short, equanimity is composure and evenness, especially when facing stress, and it is derived from acceptance of the present moment. Invoked by the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions, as well as Hinduism and Buddhism, equanimity is also one of the four "sublime attitudes" described in the Yoga Sutras, along with loving kindness, compassion, and joy. In Baron Baptiste's words, "equanimity is the art of meeting life as it meets you."

Now for two self-admitted control freaks, equanimity is a challenging concept. At the same time, we recognized the value of equanimity -- and the need for it in our lives -- long before we could name it as such; after all, picking up and moving to Kathmandu involved a rather scary commitment to relinquishing a lot of the plans and expectations that had governed our lives up to that point. As Baron writes, "equanimity releases us from unrealistic expectations about what life should be and allows us to stay centered amid the inevitable highs and lows." And, oh yes, we have had both highs and lows.

So I like this equanimity thing, even if I am not always good at it (and maybe that's precisely why I like the concept). It resonated more with me than, say, the vitality theme of Week Two, and not only in life but also in my yoga practice. On the yoga mat, equanimity comes into play when you want to come out of a pose. You know the feeling -- when your quads scream after spending 20 seconds in utkatasana or when you nearly stop breathing during a torturously long boat pose. According to Baron, this is when you call in the "winds of grace to carry you." "Grace" seems like a very generous term to describe Brian and myself in some moments of yogic contortion, but I'll take it just the same.

As we did the first two weeks, we alternated the prescribed Week Three podcasts (courtesy of TeriLeigh again) with a couple longer sessions by Nikki Wong and Dave Farmar. Just for fun we also have gotten into the habit of practicing some arm balances that have not yet made it into the 40 Days of Yoga asana series. It is amazing what three straight weeks of yoga do for your core strength and how helpful that is for poses like crane and side crow -- both of which I could do before, but only for about 1.5 seconds. Now I'm up to eight!

Up next: flying crow (source).

In my dreams.

While we both continue to feel stronger and stronger in our yoga practices, which build to 45-minute sessions by Week Three, we are both finding it harder and harder to sit down for the twice-daily meditation sessions, which increase to 15 minutes in the third week. Confession: I did not meditate once last week. There you go. I would like to blame my negligence partly on the fact that I went to Beijing last week for work (more on that soon), but I know that this excuse is a total cop out. I made time for 45 to 85 minutes of yoga every day in my hotel room; I could have done the same for meditation too. But it is HARD work, this meditation thing, and 15 minutes seems like an impossible eternity.

As we approach Week Four, we are going to try a meditation podcast to help us through a 20 minute meditation session. I'm not making any promises beyond this, but I'll give the podcast a good go. Stay tuned for our report next week.

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