esther m palmer

live with awareness, et voila! you've got a practice

I'm a little obsessive in nature. If something captures my interest (and it doesn't hurt if it's something that can be followed via a course of study), I will pour nearly all of my energy and attention into it. I've never had hobbies, just life-consuming obsessions that I try to parlay into full-time studentry and/or jobs. Hence my love of the Alexander Technique.

How I understand the Alexander Technique is as a tool for creating balance in the body, but not one that you exercise for an hour every day and then leave be. Well, maybe in the beginning you do, you certainly can, but really it's meant to be in practice all the time, so that you can undo "unnatural" or harmful patterns of how you use your own body to move or carry yourself (sitting, standing, etc) throughout the day, making way for your body to move at its most efficient, with an awareness of the whole system. I don't want to get in to it too deeply, but just offer it as an example of a manner of learning and living that is in practice, in play, at all times, that seems to come through "just" the physical body.

I think this is particularly challenging for many people, especially those not entirely obsessed with their own moving body, because it seems like one manner of doing and not an array of approaches that is applicable to the many areas of one's life. Being a body person (major geek), I love spending all day paying attention to what my body is doing, and I do believe the physical body (which has as part of it the energetic and mental bodies, too!) and one's use of it is applicable to ANY area of life. That said, I get that it can help to parse out physical, energetic, and mental as separate if connected bodies. Which means you might want different ways to work with each of them. And this is where I really begin to appreciate the study and practice of yoga.

Yoga is oneness.

Now, I'll bet you're asking yourself, what does that even mean?

I'm still defining it as a ya-know-it-when-you-feel-it kinda thing, because I don't have the proper words for it. But the yogis way back when were a bit more systematic than I am. They got obsessed and then they went and built a system of tools that ANYONE can put to use to find that oneness (even if we don't all describe it or experience it in the same way).

Lucky for us, the collection of tools addresses practicing yoga with all of our bodies (all of our one body), offering physical postures (asana, most of these being perhaps quite a bit more recently developed, but equally relevant), breathing practices (pranayama), meditation techniques, and rules/guides/suggestions (the yamas/niyamas, among others found in yoga philosophy) for living peacefully and gracefully with others and within any environment. Et voila, you can practice your yoga via physical, energetic, mental, and social bodies!

By covering all angles (is that all of them? you tell me), more of us will find it more accessible to make this yoga practice infuse every moment of your living. (This is not to make every moment about work, but rather a balance of effort, ease, and joy.)

Of course, yoga just as a lifelong practice, it is also a lifelong study, meaning it does and should take some time to learn these tools (and there is no such thing as perfecting them, only practice). No one should dive in to the whole kit and caboodle at once -- start where you are most comfortable. For some that means asana, for others contemplation and inward reflection, for others new codes by which to carry out daily actions.

But remember that if you're stuck in one body, you might try getting un-stuck through a different one. If you can't solve a problem in your head, get on your mat. If your body can't take another sun salutation, think it through rather than doing it. If your emotions are running wild, breathe slowly and pause without thinking (for just a brief moment or sit in meditation for longer).

Whatever you're doing, however you approach it, remember to breathe and practice moving towards balance, in everything.

Speaking of which, I've been sitting at this computer a while and need to get moving again!

Till next time, om shanti, om tat sat.

Thoughts or questions? I'd love to hear them.

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