I wanted to share this article on “ecotherapy,” a term I had not heard before. I found the article interesting because for years now, I have gradually practiced all the elements listed in the article as treatment for depression, not because I had been told by a therapist to do so, but because, despite my feeling the repercussions of going against the grain, I felt happier and healthier settling in one place, traveling more slowly, connecting with my pets, and tending a small patch of nature.
These shifts in lifestyle simply feel to me more in alignment with my own nature and that of the earth. I found, incidentally, it gave me much more time overall to do things. People ask me how I do so much (usually referring to the day job, the yoga teaching, the gardening and cooking, the volunteer work). Thinking of the way they live, and what they do, they ask when do I rest? I say that my life is in fact rather slow and restful. I rest when I meditate. I rest when I am taking the time to make a home-cooked meal — every day when I am in town, often two or three times a day. I rest when I am tending the garden. I do not think of cooking and gardening as chores, but as ways to nurture myself.
I rest when I am commuting because it is on foot or sitting on the bus or metro (note: instead of getting anxious or angry when metro is slow, think of it as an opportunity to draw into yourself and meditate, contemplate, or read).
Not having moved or changed jobs in years, even though there have been serious challenges with both where I live and my job, I had the time, money, and energy that would have been used up in a major upheaval, to engage in the study and practice to become a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and before that, to study drawing and photography and to exhibit my art. Staying in place, I continue to have time to study and to read (not watching TV helps alot, too, for finding time). The choices are different with children in the house, but it is still possible to make choices that require less racing around for the family.
This, to me, is a larger aspect of vinyasa krama, the art of sequencing. When we sequence how we move in space and time in a holistic, sensitive way that honors the rhythms and cycles of our bodies and the earth’s, then we feel less trapped or overwhelmed. When I was trying to keep up with society, I was often sad and anxious. Now I am much less so. I have often attributed it to these choices. Now, I see, society has given us a word for it — ecotherapy. With a word coined for it and put in the press, will people feel more comfortable practicing it?
Vinyasa krama — the art or essence of sequencing is meant to help us align in space and time, so that we experience being and practice in the most optimal way. Last time I was with John Friend, he gave as a homework assignment, writing down Anusara sequencing principles. What I found wonderful about thinking this through, was it was not just about how to sequence a practice to reach a particular apex pose (though that is an important aspect of designing a class or practice). Here’s the list I came up with (not in any particular order and I am sure I’ve left some out):
First principle (open to grace always comes first)
Attitude, alignment, action
Open to grace, muscular energy, inner spiral, outer spiral, organic energy
Set the foundation of the pose first (for teaching and observing this also applies to looking to the foundation first)
Breath leads the way
Stabilize the periphery, move from the core
Root to rise
Major principles before applying refinements (i.e., open to grace, ME, IS, OS, OE before loops)
Sensitivity, stability, adjustment (for hands on/therapeutic adjustments)
Curvature before length (spinal alignment)
Shins in, thighs out
Initiate actions from the back body
I could blog about these for weeks and how, although they are simply articulated physical alignment principles, they would apply to actions off of the mat.
Vinyasa krama is the art of sequencing. How a yoga practice or flow is sequenced can determine whether it is uplifting or inward going, exhilarating or calming. When we are trained and attentive, we start to know the most optimal order to open our bodies and our focus to align with the time of day, the season, the weather, our mood, and our health. This incredible art helps us be positioned and aligned in a way that we feel free in time and space, rather than being constrained by time and space.
This morning while I was out in the garden, I was thinking a lot about vinyasa krama and the goddess Kali — goddess of, among other things, time and change, and thus, of sequencing. I woke very early, brought to consciousness by the long light of the solstice even through closed curtains. As I went about my morning, rinsing the sprouts while heating the water for my morning coffee; cutting back the greens and herbs before starting breakfast; doing the major pruning and clean-up before doing more decorative garden work; finishing cooking before taking out the recycling; applying a facial mask before starting to vacuum; never walking up or down the stairs empty-handed; waiting to gather the bills until after I was clean and waiting for friends to arrive, etc., I realized how important sequencing is to the richness of my days. By knowing the best way to order tasks for my needs, my day is simultaneously productive, unhurried, and enjoyable.
By the time my friends arrived around noon, I had meditated, taken care of the garden, gathered food for my own breakfast and to share with friends, talked to neighbors, cleaned the house and myself, done a little asana, written in my journal, and sorted the mail. Had I not known from long experience and conscious attention how to sequence all the different elements, knowing which ones went together, which took longest, which ones if done earlier or later would create double clean up, etc, I would have been tired and the tasks unfinished. Instead, after brunch, I came home to a tended garden, a freshly made bed, and time to enjoy a quiet evening.
These sequencing principles also apply for me on major projects at work. If ordered one way, the work is exponentially harder, the deadline a fearsome thing; if ordered another way, everything comes together mostly as it should when it should. When I order my work with attention (this assumes others cooperate with this endeavor), I have time to do a good, careful job and still take breaks, eat well, and leave the office in time to take or teach yoga class.
Whether you are doing your home yoga practice or cooking or working, choose to sequence the elements of your practice, your activities, or your day, with attentiveness, reverence, love, and respect, and Kali will support you and not show you her most fearsome face.