“The lotus is a symbol of the life of a householder yogi, one who maintains his or her calm and grace above the muddy ponds of life.”
— Paramahansa Yogananda
By Lela Beem
After being a yoga teacher for many years, I have sometimes felt pressure to teach more “complex” postures and entertain my students with fancy tricks.
Many students and teachers of asana are encouraged to perform great acrobatic feats. Recently, I have begun to emphasize the gifts available in the seemingly simple movements. Postures like Tadasana (mountain pose) or Garbasana (child’s pose) can offer any student opportunity for unexpected insight.
Wouldn’t you know I have found this to be true when parenting my young son as well? His favorite toys aren’t the squeaky, flashy ones. He squeals with delight at pots and wooden spoons, simple blocks stacked high, or even better, grass and dirt. He reminds me to be awestruck by shadows dancing on the floor or wind ruffling through the trees.
I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist parent. Jasper has his fair share of toys meant to help him earn early admission to Harvard. But I’ve started to see the joy in offering him simple objects, as well as simple interaction, to hold his attention.
This parallels my relationship to yoga in many ways. The more classes I’ve taught and trainings I’ve attended, the more I want to simply show students how to become quiet and listen. Stillness, steadiness, awareness and breathing. What could I possibly say to someone that is more profound than the wisdom of their own inner teacher?
Sure, the sequencing can be fun, and it’s important to understand your body. Each posture has myriad of benefits and energetic effects worth pointing out. But a simple ujjayi breath or a spinal twist, given space to ripen, can lead to a life-changing experience of yoga.
I’ve also come to enjoy a simplified personal practice. To feel my spine moving is a delight. To rest in the space between breaths while practicing pranayama is a gateway to understanding my true self.
Sitting still in meditation, centered at my heart, I can create distance from my chattering mind. What I look to find is sthiti, the source of steadiness and tranquility that holds this universe together. Sensing the subtle beauty of the world is only possible with a quieter mind.
Entertainment serves its purpose. Our minds love a challenge, and it’s important to leave our comfort zones. Yet it is a spacious mind that gives us room to imagine and invent.
I hope to share the magic of simplicity with Jasper. This holiday season, I want to delight in the crinkling of wrapping paper with my one-year-old and not worry about whether the toys he got are interesting enough to hold his attention.