Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning How to Listen

So why do many yoga classes begin with a brief meditation and then end with Savasana? These practices help ground us. We can quiet our minds, scan our bodies, emotions, and minds to see what we need that day, and, at the end, fully receive the gifts of our practice. Unlike exercises that are about mind over matter to achieve a goal, Anusara® yoga is about listening to our inner experience so it can inform and dialogue with external ones.

But how do we learn to listen? This is not an automatic skill. Women in particular often have trouble finding their inner voice when gendered socialization often pressures us to subsume our needs to those of others. Cultivating a clear listening to our inner experience, and learning how to appropriately integrate the inner and outer worlds, is a skill we can—and must--learn.

Many top universities recognize the value of what Brown University’s Contemplative Studies Initiative calls “critical first person” study.[i] This type of study involves a curious inquiry of one’s inner experience, and then an ability to step back and examine the significance and meaning of that experience. Practitioners learn how to integrate their internal experiences with the third person study that is more traditional in many educational contexts.

Yoga is one of many powerful tools through which we can learn this “critical first person” study. It can help us not only find a clear inner voice, but also examine how the personal is political. In Anusara® yoga, we move from the core to periphery. We turn inward and allow that awareness to motivate our external actions. And we then take what we learn from our outer experiences to inform our internal ones. It’s a mutually enriching process.

Try it:

Ardha Chandrachapasana: From Ardha Chandrasana, bow forward to find your core and to grasp your foot, then extend your foot and head back. Find your extension only after connecting within.