Sandy's Yoga Blog
Meditative writing is a technique that works wonders for me when I need clarification or direction. I keep a notebook that I call "Letters from God," and when I'm stumped by life or overwhelmed by a situation, I bring it to my meditation cushion. Here's how it works: I write down the question, e.g., "What should I do about this situation?" Then I set it aside and get into a comfortable position and start focusing on ujjayi breathing, (click here to learn ujjayi) bringing myself to a quiet, meditative state so that my mind is out of the way. I wait until I hear the inner sound of my own name being called, which signals that the answer is coming. Then I pick up the pen and paper and write down my name and whatever comes next. There's no thinking, no doubting -- just writing. I'm always amazed at how the answer flows out and how helpful it is. It's also helpful every now and then to go back and read my old letters.
Try this technique for yourself. Remember -- don't think. You want the answer to come from deep within, not from the mind.
It's no secret that I love Costa Rica. Over the last 7 years, I've visited Costa Rica many times, and have shared my passion for this little country with students and their friends and families on at least 10 yoga retreats. People often ask me what drew me to Costa Rica in the first place.
There's a saying that sometimes you can be homesick for a place that you've never been to, and for me that was the case with Costa Rica. Even though I knew nothing about it, I had it in my head that I needed to go there. When I turned 39 it became almost urgent, but I was a single mother and couldn't even afford to take my son to nearby Virginia Beach. But then I got a nice tax refund, and while I had plenty of practical needs for that money, I found myself inside a travel agency. It turned out that a trip for two to Costa Rica would cost almost the exact amount of my tax refund. I left with the tickets in hand and my son and I began to plan our exciting adventure.
We had a fabulous time and some great mother-son bonding over zip-lining, horse-back riding, hiking in the rainforest, and relaxing on the beach. We were charmed by the warm, friendly Costa Ricans and the natural beauty that surrounded us wherever we went. We quickly lost our desire for cell phones, internet, and TV -- who needs that when you can see a volcano dramatically appear through the clouds, or watch a Scarlet Macaw fly through the sky like some prehistoric creature? I thought about how much my yoga students would love it, and I started to make plans for a retreat.
Last week one of my students told me that by the end of each class she feels like she's been given a drug, and she marveled over how she can relax so much more deeply than she can at home. She said she thought of Michael Jackson, and that maybe if he had practiced yoga he wouldn't need drugs to help him sleep.
I know what she means about that drug-like effect -- nothing can relax me like a good yoga practice, and by the end I'm practically in an altered state and the relaxation is profound. What causes this effect, and why does it only happen in some types of yoga classes and not others?
I believe this profound relaxation is a direct result of deep, inward focus. I start each class by helping students to shed layers of tension and stress -- physical as well as mental/emotional -- and then I guide them inside, focusing on breath and sensation, and try to keep them there. I lead the postures in a deliberate progression: stress relief, intense focus, and deep relaxation -- all the while maintaining a deep, inner focus -- until they're ready to slip right into savasana.