First, gather the props. And you need them, even if you think you don’t. Ideally, a bolster and three blankets. Don’t have bolster? Roll up the dog’s bed or use a couch cushion. Don’t have yoga blankets? Use beach towels. You don’t need a yoga mat to sit. Just sit.
You want to sit cross-legged and high enough that the knees descend. If you place your hands on your hips, you should be able to slide your hands down your legs to your knees. If there is an up motion, sit higher. Higher. HIGHER. (Can you hear me?) Stack blankets on the bolster if you have to. If your knees feel unsupported now that you are higher, support them. Roll up blankets or towels and gently place them under the knees for support. Sukhasana is called easy pose because that’s the end game. In the beginning, maybe it’s not so easy. Maybe it’s not so comfortable. Lean into that. One of the purposes of the pose is to teach us to sit with discomfort. Your purpose, though, is to not create more discomfort; you use the props to help you get as comfortable as you can and welcome practice to create the ease.
Now you should feel your sitting bones. Anchor the pose there and in your legs and outer edges of your feet. Knees are descending. The pose is anchored in the earth from the sitting bones down. Feel that grounding connection. Then the spine lengthens up. You will feel the abdominals and the paraspinal muscles engage. Rejoice in that lifting sensation as you continue to ground into the earth. Drop the chin slightly to feel the back of the neck stretch; this also gives the mind an opportunity to honor the heart. If you are in the pose, you will feel like you are a channel for the energy between the earth and the sky, like a lightning bolt or a radio tower.
Set a timer for five minutes. Use an app. Focus on the breath. Chant Om. Journal afterwards. Or not. Practice first thing in the morning or right before bed. Just practice the pose. That’s yoga—practice.
Once you’re in Sukhasana (easy seat), you close your eyes and look inward. When I first started practicing meditation daily, it took everything just to sit. My mind would beg me to jump up for the dryer buzzer or grade papers or make soup. To stay, I had to shift my perspective. I would silently say to myself, “I am still. I am calm.” Whatever negative words popped in my head, immediately I would catch them and reorient them into a positive: I hate this became My breath feels free. I kept coming back to pose to anchor myself. Gradually I started remembering images my teachers had shared in classes, and my mind grasped those.
Imagery helps me remain in the moment. One of my favorites is from my teacher Carla Anselm: imagine a house. Go to the door and open it. Welcome yourself. Look around. What do you imagine? Sometimes the house is quiet; there’s a low fire crackling from the hearth and a comfy chair lulls me towards it. Other times the floors are caked in dog hair and the windows are grime coated. How my imagination constructs the house is information about me.
What matters is this: STAY—find your way to STAY. And CHANGE the words in your head, if you need to. If they don’t serve you, don’t serve them; revise them to create the house you want to live in.
Get Your House in Order
After years of regular sitting, my inner house became more consistent. We all know life is challenging, but sitting taught me I was okay when everything wasn’t. I also started learning what I am willing to do and what I’m not willing to do. What I’m good at and what I’m not good at, a friend would say. Sitting helped me get real with myself—the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful. The key is I had to do the work to get my house in order; I sit and expect nothing. I sit with the discomfort of being wrong, of not knowing, of feeling fear. On the flipside, I sit with peace, of pure clarity, of feeling love. I knew that before I could truly be of service to anyone I had to get my own house in order. It took me years to arrive home. Even now, there is remodeling. But I’m closer to my ultimate goal of maintenance.
Sit with Yourself
Once you can sit with yourself (and stay!), no matter what happens you are okay. “You do you” works best when you know you and you are your own power source. Sitting is the clearest path to your center, the heart. Sitting is where you observe real change—change that begins in you and empowers you to change what’s within your control and lovingly let go of what is not.
If the practice plateaus, upgrade! Add more time. Sit twice a day. Yoga is about progressing. There will never be perfection. You will never be done. Sitting will show you that. Figure out what you need to continue to grow and change.
Every Day is a New Start
Shit happens. You might oversleep. You might have an early morning doctor appointment or need to help with your kid’s homework you just found out about a half hour before the bus arrives. The cat throws up on your mat. A business meeting runs late. You went out for dinner after work instead of heading to your mat. Every day is different. It’s really not a big deal. The practice will wax and wane, but it’s always there. Some days you might only have five minutes to yourself in the car. Other days you just don’t sit down and those days turn into a week or longer. Remember, your home is always within. You can come back to your practice any time—morning, night, lunchtime, during a traffic jam. And if it’s been awhile, be kind to yourself when you do return. Close your eyes and arrive. Open the door and feel that long hug that needs no words.
(Video of Simon and Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound)