Practice Notes – Simplicity 2 (the sequel)

It’s officially summer movie season, which means sequels! Ok, so before you get too excited, this sequel is just further thoughts on a previous post, and does not involve a car chase or mega-shark-earthquake-alien-baby type situation. Just getting that out of the way…

It’s quite the opposite, actually. This post is about embracing simplicity in your yoga practice, in order to better facilitate a meditative state of mind. Earlier, in Practice Notes – Simplicity, I wrote about how framing the asana practice around a handful of basic poses helped me experience greater continuity between the asana part of practice and the sitting meditation that I did right after the poses.

wetstones_simplicityIn addition, I like to start my practice with 10 minutes or so of slow walking meditation (in the vicinity of my yoga mat), so the postural yoga practice is bookended by two forms of meditation. On a meditation retreat in the Vipassana (Insight) tradition, you alternate sessions of sitting and walking meditation throughout the day, weaving together meditation-in-action and meditation-in-stillness.

So, here’s how this goes in practice: choose 4 poses that make sense together and repeat them 3 times (in the same order).  The first time, you may pay a good bit of attention to particular elements of alignment that you’re working on, but with each repetition, let your approach be simpler, your mental instructions sparser, and your experience more internal. Choose fairly basic poses that you know you can do without strain. Hold each pose for a good while. Slow the practice down. Depending on the poses you choose, this postural yoga practice will take 20-40 minutes.

I have been practicing with this little template for a few months now. For me, it’s physical enough to awaken awareness in the body, and it does prepare me well for sitting. Sometimes the pose selection results in a pretty vigorous session, but it’s so focused because of the simplicity of the sequence and the repetition. And, on the second and third repetition of the pose, I often find a little more ease and sweetness in the posture, as the immediate sense memory allows it to come more easily.

You might be thinking, “how can you have a well-rounded yoga practice if you only do 4 poses?” Good question! There is room for variety here, because tomorrow you can choose an entirely different set of 4 poses that address other parts of the body. If you do this a few times a week, you can cycle through the whole body on a regular basis.

Here are a few examples:

Practice #1Your hips will feel open at the end, and you’ll feel grounded and ready for seated meditation.
Walking Meditation (about 10 mins)
a few rounds of Half Sun Salutations as a warm up
1. Downward Facing Dog
2. Warrior 2
3. Tree Pose
4. Malasana (Squat Pose)
Repeat 1-4 (Downward Facing Dog – Malasana) 2 more times, pause for a few breaths between each set
Sitting Meditation (about 30 mins for me, could be different for you)
Savasana (about 10 mins)

Practice #2 This one prepares the hips and strengthens the back body for sitting with good posture. It also has a few restorative poses after meditation to relieve a creaky back.
Walking Meditation (about 10 mins)
a few rounds of Half Sun Salutations and Cat/Cow warm ups
1. Staff Pose
2. Ardha Matsyandrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Twist)
3. Locust Pose
4. Pigeon Pose
Repeat 1-4 (Staff Pose – Pigeon Pose) 2 more times, pause for a few breaths between each set
Sitting Meditation (about 30 mins for me, but you can adjust according to your practice)
Legs Up the Wall (5 mins)
Supported Bridge Pose (5 mins)
Savasana (about 10 mins)

Practice #3 This one’s a little more vigorous, and will help develop the core strength needed to sit well. It should also help calm any restlessness before you sit.
Walking Meditation (about 10 mins)
a few rounds of Half Sun Salutations, gentle dynamic twists to warm up
1. Plank Pose
2. Triangle Pose
3. Pyramid Pose
4. Warrior 3 Pose
Repeat 1-4 (Plank Pose – Warrior 3 Pose) 2 more times, pause for a few breaths between each set
Sitting Meditation (about 30 mins for me, but could be shorter or longer for you)
Savasana (about 10 mins)

Choosing the 4 poses in advance eliminates the need to sequence the practice on the fly. I know from many a past practice (which could have been Over-Complication: The Prequel) that I don’t want to be thinking and remembering and analyzing that much when I’m trying to cultivate mindfulness. Do ever just get really “in your head” when you’re doing your home practice? That’s what I’m talking about. This helps.

Try it and let me know how it goes!


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