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September 2012 - Sitting
Dear Yoga Friends,
The practice of yoga can bring a special presence of mind to everything we do: sitting, standing, walking, and even the more complex movements of sports, dance, and physical labor. B.K.S. Iyengar translated Sutra II.46 as:
Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence, and benevolence of spirit.
Can we carry over to our daily lives these qualities we nurture in our asana practice? This connection could be considered the holy grail of yoga practice.
One of the reasons asana practice evolved was to support seated meditation. I have not met many inidividuals who, without special training, can sit down in padmasana (full lotus) for an hour and clear their head of thoughts. Asana practice helps build the strength, flexibility, sense of balance, mental focus, and breath awareness that is required to be able to do this, or at least to approach it.
What about sitting? We do it when we work, eat, read, wait, drive, watch movies, listen to or play musical instruments, and for some of us, when we meditate or pray. When you sit to do these activities, do you draw from your yoga practice to take care of yourself? All the aspects of asana practice can be brought to bear as you go about seated tasks: weight balance, firmness around the supportive parts of your body, softness and release in other parts, height and breadth of the torso, alignment of the head, softness and receptiveness of the eyes and ears, and yes, the all important breath.
A somewhat eccentric practical tool for this application of yoga to seated activity is a piece of furniture that I call the "yoga chair". The idea was suggested to me a number of years ago by one of my yoga cohorts Aaron Cutchin who had built one for himself. The basic concept is a mobile floor that can be adjusted so that you can bring seated asanas to tasks at hand. Why sit in the same ordinary chair pose all the time?
As luck would have it, after kicking the idea around in my head for a few months, one day I came upon an abandoned office chair by the side of the road. The base had a flat bracket which was perfect. I bought a high quality piece of plywood and was off and running. (Or should I say "off and sitting"?) I've been using this chair happily for many years. But don't try to tell me that I should start manufacturing these chairs and selling them. The market is unfortunately way too small.
Whether or not you are crazy enough to go out and build your own yoga chair, it still pays to bring your yogic attention to how you sit!