A friend of mine recently turned me on to Amy Cuddy's research on posture. (If you have an issue with the video below, here's the link: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en).
Her work here seems useful to many people, but I'm also thinking about first time graduate student teachers and job seekers.
Power posing may also be particularly important for women in academe (see the Professor is in on this topic: http://theprofessorisin.com/2011/07/08/what-is-assertiveness-in-academia/).
In addition to power posing, this may also be a time to experiment with the psychological/metaphorical benefits of certain yoga poses--forward folds for calming, back bends (heart openers) for feeling more loving and opening, balancing poses for gaining a feeling of centeredness. Or, maybe some of yoga's original power poses--the warrior sequence.
“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.”
― B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life
One of Iyengar's great lessons was the focus on alignment--a focus any student who has finished an Iyengar class with a small stockpile of props will recognize.
But as Iyengar wrote in Light on Life, the props and the techniques for stacking the bones, for bringing hips into alignment, these were all a part of a process for achieving a much larger alignment in one's life, in one's world.
Some of us are just beginning our fall semester's, some of us have already started. Already, the pressure to do, do, do is mounting. And yet, at this early moment, we might all do well to pause and be inspired by Iyengar's focus on alignment--in our lives on and off the mat.
As we look out across it, is our fall calendar aligned with our priorities? What is the scheduling equivalent of that sneaky hip that wants to pop out--what is drawing us out of alignment? What tools and techniques (technologies, accountability networks, people) might help us bring the coming semester into a healthier alignment with our commitments?
My meditation practice this morning was not great. I usually try to sneak out of bed and move as quietly into my meditation space as possible, so as not to wake the husband or the dog.
This morning, the dog woke while I was sitting in meditation. As I sat, trying to focus on my mantra, a gross licking sound pervaded, drawing me back.
There is a particular licking sound that occurs when Biscuit needs to go to the bathroom. It comes from her licking her butt, as though something about that disgusting habit is going to help her figure out whether or not she needs to go.
Not so great for the human meditating. But a clear communication of doggy needs.
In general, the humans in our house are pretty good about attending to Biscuit's needs: did she eat, does she have enough water, did she go to pee before bed.
But one of the needs we've been ascribing to the dog a lot lately since moving from a house with a yard to an apartment is her need to play. "Does she look depressed?" I ask my husband. "Can we take her to the park to play ball? She really likes that."
Grownup humans can forget that we, too, need play time. As well as a number of other necessities--good sleep, healthy food, exercise--that go by the wayside when we get busy.
As many of us launch on our new semesters, or even just the upcoming work week, it's worth thinking about the needs we would make sure our dogs have met and seeing whether we humans are also meeting our basic needs. Are we doing the equivalent of going out to play once a day?
Iyengar Yoga was the first yoga I ever practiced, when I first took a class at age 15. Iyengar yoga is the yoga that has taught me the most about my feet, my alignment, inward and outward rotation of the limbs.
Though I am now practicing and teaching in a different style, Iyengar yoga will always speak to me.
B.K.S. Iyengar, the man most responsible for bringing yoga to the world outside of India died today. When he was a young man, Iyengar was very sick. Through his yoga practice, he healed himself.
Iyengar yoga bears the marks of its creator's life trajectory. A yoga popularizer, he made yoga accessible for everybody. He also made it accessible for every body. Focusing on alignment, Iyengar teachers use props to make sure each and every student can enter the pose safely.
What I most love about Iyengar classes is the sense of connection among all the body parts that is created when the teachers guide you through class. I have yet to encounter a style of yoga in which the teachers know quite so much about anatomy as Iyengar.
It is in Iyengar yoga that one is likely to hear instructions about lifting the inside arch of the foot in order to understand its effects on the whole body. Every little forgotten body part gets its time in the sun in Iyengar yoga.
To me, this is a great metaphor for seeing the world--as interconnected, as interdependent. All small pieces contributing to the alignment as of the whole.
This way of thinking is the gift I have received from the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar. I look forward to hearing the reflections of others as days go by.
My sister and I loved back to school shopping when we were little girls. There was a joke in our family that when we were bored, whiny, or fussing, my parents could always keep us occupied by saying, "hey, girls, why don't you talk about school supplies?" This topic could keep us going for hours.
Even now, there's something beautiful about a fresh start, and though I'm not going to by a bunch of shiny new folders to start the year, I thought this would be a nice time to review my most important resources for academic writing and yoga.
Writing and Productivity:
National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity
Chopra Center Guided Meditations
At the end of summer, there is lots of planning for fall that takes place. Some of this is necessary--we have to show up with a syllabus on the first day, and, as the wonderful academic guru Kerry Ann Rockquemore says, "Every Semester Needs a Plan" (http://www.facultydiversity.org/).
And yet, all of this focus on what's coming tends to stir up a lot of what people in the yoga community call "stories." They are stories, rather than truth because they are our projections onto the past ( I was hurt, I used to be good) or onto the future (I will be great, I will fail), rather than what is.
At this point in the calendar year, my stories are going. I mean roiling, boiling, churning in some kind of nasty brew. This is the time that I am thinking hard about both what I failed to do over the summer and also my great hopes and fears for fall.
It is both the perfect time and the hardest time to meditate. Meditation does not necessarily require clearing the mind, but it does require battling with the stories that come floating through the mind. And I will say, this battle is hard, and I frequently lose it.
Sitting this morning in meditation, I found that I lost my mantra and started worrying about the classroom response system (clickers) I'll be using in my fall lecture. "What will happen when the clickers don't work!" "What if the TAs don't respect me! What if every student is like that one student that one time that I didn't get along with?"...and so it goes.
This is why meditation isn't really "doing nothing." At least not for me. For me, it is a struggle, some days harder, some days easier, to control the mind.
In particular, I love the mantra "neti neti," which I first heard about from Zachary Cannady. Neti Neti, means something like, not this, not that--a way of detaching, declaring what is not real.
For me, wagering this gentle negation against the roiling stories is part of the work I do in meditation, when I sit down to do "nothing."
Though this experience can be brutal, I do think of my meditation capacity as a little muscle that I am flexing, so that when the semester begins, I can return to that feeling of detachment, even when I've left my safe space.
I posted last time on failure. Today I am writing about success, but not in a major glorious achievements kind of way.
The end of summer is a little bit like New Year's Eve, especially for those on an academic calendar. It is a time for planning, gearing up, making resolutions. But it can also be a time for introspection, reflection, taking stock of the season that has just passed.
Like me, many make ambitious goals for the summer. Also like me, many have probably "failed" to meet all of their goals. This failure can produce self-flagellation, "if only I had..." or "well, I'll nail it this fall."
But these goals we "fail" at are only the most visible manifestations of the important work we do all the time. Part of the reason we attach to them is because they are easy markers--"I did a headstand--hooray, I'm a yogi!" or "My conference paper was accepted--Now I'm finally a real academic!"
But the true work of a yogi--regular practice--and the true work of a writer--regular writing--doesn't yield such flashy rewards very often.
So, as summer moves into its end (I heard someone call August the Sunday of summer), it might be nice to make concrete the normally invisible daily work that we have done. Rather than just noting the absence of a highly visible goal, maybe it we can take time to reflect on all the more humble work that has been done.
A nice way to do this is to write it down. Take five minutes to write, what did I do this summer? How did I show up for my practice? How have I cultivated my practice?
Writing it down helps us recognize and reflect on what we've achieved. And those small things are indeed accomplishments of note.
Early in the summer, I set some ambitious goals: finish my book, do a forearm balance before my birthday.
Have I made progress toward those goals? Yes. Have I achieved those goals? Nope. Absolutely not.
Failing can feel quite real when you're working toward something specific and concrete. There's an image in mind of who you want to be or what you want to be achieving. Failure reminds you of where you are.
And that's the upshot and the challenge of failing. When you fail, there's an opportunity to take stock of present surroundings. You have the opportunity to see yourself as in the present moment--"Well, here I am, neither working toward the goal, nor fantasizing about it. I am nonetheless here having these experiences."
It's a time to remind yourself that though you have goals, you are not your goal.
You are you.
in my case, the person with the partly done book who falls out of inversions.
I've been telling people that I am "homeless" lately. In truth, I have returned to my new hometown from a summer visiting family and I am house sitting while searching for a new apartment.
I hate house hunting, the feeling of not knowing when and where I'll be "home." Living out of my suitcase, without a regular schedule, and no mailing address, things are very unstable around here.
In this time of instability, I am thankful for the regular hours I've logged on my daily yoga and writing practices. As you can see in the previous post, sometimes my writing office has been a little funky..(that particular photo came from a day Motel 6 was home and the dog and I were momentarily evicted for room cleaning), but it's been comforting to have my writing to go to day in and day out.
Similarly, now that I'm back in town, classes with my favorite teachers have been kicking my butt, giving me that old, comforting feeling of a body pushed hard.
These are comforts. These are anchors when everything else around me seems to be moving.
What they are not, however, is glamorous or magic. It's the reassurance given by habit.
Get a Life, PhD
The Professor is In
The Thesis Whisperer
Tenure, She Wrote