My practice is something I do for God. Period. In my life, I want to live for God and so I have to make that real. I have to toughen up. I have to discipline myself to do things that I might not feel like doing every day to just get over me. (What do I want to do? What feels good to me?) After sixty-three years, I don’t want to keep that attitude going on. I want to move away from it, at least ease up on it. In bhakti yoga, everything you do you try to think of God before you do it. As soon as I’m conscious of being awake, I’ve trained myself to remember and talk to God. Make me an instrument of thy will. Allow me to be your servant. Use me today so that I can bring happiness to others; so that I can enhance this world, not just be a selfish taker; so that I can increase your bliss. If God is sat chit, mostly ananda, I’m into increasing that ananda, God’s bliss. That’s what I want to do, that’s what I’m devoted to doing. I have my own personal way of making my offerings to God every morning.
I do asana in the afternoon. Asana is the way to deal with our karmas. Our bodies are made of our karmas. I have to be comfortable in this body in order to be able to let go of my fascination with me as this mortal personality, this ego being. I have to first of all feel at ease with me. Asanas help us to do that. But the body is a conglomerate of the residue of all of our past relationships. So it’s therapy. When I sit in the morning and do my eight rounds of japa (mantra) meditation, I don’t want to be distracted by thoughts about other people and issues that I am dealing with here or there. So doing a short asana practice, some kriyas and pranayama, helps to clear all that out first. And then I can meditate quite directly and keep my mind on God. Why do I do that practice every morning? Because it feels good. When I don’t do it, I don’t feel good and I don’t like to not feel good!
I have to be comfortable in this body in order to be able to let go of my fascination with me as this mortal personality, this ego being.
If I’m rushed for time, I do my practice mentally. If I’ve got to get on an airplane and I’ve overslept and a car is waiting for me and I haven’t done all those pujas (offerings to the deity), I’ll sit in the back of the cab and I’ll do the whole thing in my mind. That’s when you know that the practice has borne fruit. You know exactly what comes next. You don’t really think about it. It’s become part of you. Okay, I wasn’t able to do those eight rounds of japa, so I’ll do it walking down the street, in the subway, in a cab. I have found a way to do that. I can do my magic 10-asana sequence (see below) in about seven minutes! You can find time.
You cannot practice without love. It’s got to have love in it, romance in it. It has to turn you on. It would be stale and boring to me if I were doing it only for myself. I’m doing it for God, for my teachers; the prayers in the practice are integrated with the names of my teachers. There’s magic in the name, in God’s name. When I say the names of my teachers, they are instantly with me and suddenly I’m not just me by myself doing a routine. I’m checking in with those other beings. All the love that I have is rekindled, every single day. From other worlds. Simultaneously. I do a full 90-minute asana practice in the afternoon and I always, always do it with music. The sequence that I do, and have been doing for years, doesn’t vary. Sometimes I’ll spend a longer time in some poses on some days, and other poses on other days, but it’s basically the same.
Sharon’s Practice Advice
You have to want to practice at home, and you have to want to make the practice part of your life wherever you are. You’re not always going to be able to go to your favorite neighborhood yoga studio, so you need to be able to take yoga home with you. Start small! Meditation is daunting to people when they hear that someone meditates for an hour. Oh my! Do I have to do that? No. Just sit, for one minute. Close your eyes, let go. Breathe in, breathe out. Do that for a week. Set a timer. And then the next week, do it for two minutes. The point is, just do it. The key word is doable. Home practice shouldn’t be a huge, goal-oriented thing. Pick something that’s within your means.
Sharon’s Magic 10-Asana Sequence
I'm on the go so much that I needed a practice that was doable, one that could also prepare me for a longer practice, like my meditation practice. I've been doing it for about fifteen years now. There are ten pretty simple asanas that anyone can do—in ten minutes or less. Of course, you can modify if you need to.
1. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
2. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
3. Malasana (Garland Pose)
4. Teepee Twist
5 breaths each side
5. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
5 breaths each side
6. Ardha Purvottanasana (Half Upward Plank Pose)
7. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
8. Tadasana (Mountain Pose) variation
9. Parsva Urdhva Hastasana (Side-Bending Upward Salute)
1 breath each side 4 times
10. Spinal Rolls
12 to 16 breaths
©Yoga at Home by Linda Sparrowe, Universe Publishing, 2015.