Sara Ivanhoe - yoganation - color outside the lines

Hey-Gaze (The Yoga of Seeing)

From intentblog

“I love airports,” I found myself saying as I picked a friend up the other night. “People are going places.”

I realize this is an unusual experience.  Nothing seems to challenge our yogic sense of peace more than being delayed at the airport.  Traffic, shopping, family karmas and overbooked flights can send even the most centered practitioner into a scattered frenzy.

You will be surprised to hear what has helped me the most in times of agitation. It is not the breath, although please do keep breathing at all times! It’s dristi, the gaze of the eyes. The word dristi comes from the Sanskrit root drstr meaning ‘to see,’ ‘to gaze,’ ‘to focus on,’ or  better yet, ‘to direct.’

Yoga teaches us that wherever the eyes go, our energy goes.  Many of the asana practices that we learn in the West teach us to look up. Gazing upward has its benefits, including increased energy and an added challenge to balancing. But there are drawbacks as well – the most obvious being that it strains a lot of necks! Looking up also has the potential to agitate an already over-stimulated nervous system. The other issue: keeping our eyes still is much more difficult when they are focused upward. Therefore our eyes dart all over the room, looking somewhere, anywhere for some help.

If our eyes are ‘all over the place,’ so are our bodies. We end up scattered. When we focus our eyes, our bodies focus and, thankfully, our energy gets focused as well.

How many times have I forced myself to look up in half moon pose only to strain my neck, stop breathing and fall over? One day I realized that I was doing this out of habit – something someone told me to do, something I read in a book (which was written within the last hundred years). None of the ancient scriptures dictate looking up; it is not pre-requisite to enlightenment.

When I need to get grounded, I look at the ground.  When I’m in a challenging asana and really want to focus, I look down.  When I need that same level of absolute concentration, I look down. And when do I need that level of focus more than when my flight is delayed?

Try this as an experiment: Next time you are waiting for a flight, do the usual thing and people watch. Inevitably there will be someone madly tapping away on their laptop, someone will be talking just a little too loudly on their cell phone while someone else is stuffing a French fry in their mouth. As your eyes dart around and you try to keep track of everyone, create stories in your mind of what their lives must be like. Try to make sense of their existence for them. Pause. Watch your energy leaving you and going to them; watch it dwindle away.  Where your eyes go, your energy flows.

Pause again and look down. Know that the world is swirling around you, but you don’t have to look at it. You don’t have to comment or help it along. You’re just you. Just as you would in a crowded yoga class, balancing in tree pose, look down, and bring your attention and energy back to you where it belongs.  Try this in the shopping mall, at your family dinner, but mostly at the airport.

I promise you, you’ll still get there at the same time, and you just might arrive at your destination a little less frazzled and a little more rested. You may even feel so energized that you find yourself saying, as I did to my friend that day, “I love airports!” 

2 comments (Add your own)

1. James Reyes wrote:
Interesting story Sara, I know how you feel about airports it's one great place to catch our flights and go to our destinations. Take care Sara & enjoy your visits. Namaste Om Shanti.

Tue, March 27, 2012 @ 5:26 PM

2. Daniel wrote:
a0a0a0a0a0a0 Amazon Verified Purchase() This review is from: After trinyg many home yoga workouts, my current sweet spot for length is around 20 minutes. Any longer, and I start to get restless. Since my battle of the bulge requires more cardio, I like combining 20 or so minutes of it with a yoga or Pilates workout of the same length. So when I came across this set of five different 20-minute yoga workouts, I decided to give it a shot (I'll give almost anything a go if it motivates me to work out). I'm glad I did, because Ms. Ivanhoe has created an excellent series. I've done a couple of Sara Ivanhoe's other yoga workouts, and I enjoy her style. An instructor can make or break a workout, and she consistently makes hers go well. Some yoga instructors prevent relaxation by barking like a drill instructor, and others are a bit too New-Agey (although Ms. Ivanhoe does nudge the spiritual plane by sealing each workout with a hand gesture, or mudra. ). Thankfully, Sara calls well, demonstrates the poses in a non-intimidating manner, and speaks in a relaxing and encouraging tone. Plus, gosh darn it, she's appealing in a wholesome sort of way. Indeed, it's quite charming when she encourages us to scootch in a pose. The workouts are all twenty minutes long, and you can quickly skip the introductions to begin them. They differ from each other based on their purpose. For example, Total Body Tone With Weights incorporates light neoprene dumbbells to provide extra muscle work, and Weight Loss moves through the salutations faster to raise the heart rate for burning calories. I enjoyed all of the routines, although the Flat Abs one was a bit hard on my shoulders and chest due to many plank repetitions. However, Ms. Ivanhoe does suggest easier modifications throughout the series. As an added feel-good bonus, all of the routines are set in a beautiful tropical ocean-side area. Sara Ivanhoe's 20 Minute Yoga Makeover 5 Volume Gift Set is a good (and reasonably priced) addition to any home workout library, especially if you are pressed for time, or want to combine yoga with other types of exercise to shake up your routine and ease the monotony. Additional shorter and/or segmented yoga workouts I like include the Quick Fix Power Yoga Workout, Baron Baptiste Journey Into Power Level 2, and some of Karen Voight's yoga routines (like the one on Slim Physique ). Now get out there and scootch it!

Mon, May 21, 2012 @ 1:28 AM

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