Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Taming the Nag

Stay With Me A While

I lived with her night and day--
the Nag.

I don't mean my wife or mother-in-law,
they are both angels.

I am talking about that voice in me that would not
let me hold each moment
as I did my son when
he was born.

How to slay the Nag?

I am afraid I have become fond of you,
dear student,

if I spoke the answer,
you might


We’ve been talking in class this week about what our “Nag” is, what is says to us.  It’s been a beautiful and thought-provoking discussion.  My Nag is the voice of distraction – anything that pulls me away from the enjoyment of the moment.  It’s my own voice, with its priorities screwed up.   Our lives are so beautifully abundant that it is so easy to get pulled off track!

For example, what a gift it is to be able to check the weather, make a shopping list, text my husband a reminder about a soccer game, or see my sister who lives hundreds of miles away face to face, all in the palm of my hand.  But as much as I love my iPhone it can also be a curse.  The minute I open it there are 100 things pulsing and beeping and beckoning me to immerse myself in my digital world and out of the world I am actually in.  I call this being plugged in and tuned out, and I let myself get tuned out far more often than I’d like to admit.

Yoga is the opportunity to plug in and tune in.  When we seat the bones properly in the joints in yoga practice through mindful application of alignment principles (i.e. “plug in”) we make space inside and open up the flow of prana through our whole system.  When we engage our muscles in each asana we engage with our bodies.  We become more aware of our physical presence and the way that we join with it and use it in the world.  We notice moment to moment how we are feeling and can make better and more informed choices regarding our physical health, like what we choose to ingest either through food or drink or skin or breath.  When we actively participate with (or even just pay attention to) our breath, it’s pace, rhythm, and depth, we attune to the meeting place of our physical self and ephemeral (God) self and come to know a deeper connection to the essence of who we are. Yoga is the opportunity to connect to a still place inside ourselves, allowing us to awaken to and cherish each moment as a precious gift.

The Nag can be a just nuisance, or for some it can even be negative, the voice that keeps us in patterns of self-limitation.  Either way, it is a voice.  And we recognize that if that voice is inside of us that it is a voice of our own, like it or not.  So perhaps our goal should not be to slay the Nag, but rather (as my beautiful students Nancy and Meg shared on Monday) to tame it.   Own it.  Direct it.  As the title of the poem suggests, invite it to stay a while, get to know it, and shift it so that it becomes the voice that inspires us to cherish each moment like a newborn baby.  

Off the mat:
Be aware of how often your “Nag” appears, and what it says to you.  Are you plugging in and tuning out?  Take some time this week to think of a time when you were totally present in a precious moment – maybe it was holding a newborn baby, but if that is not an experience you have had and can relate to find another one.  A time when nothing in the world could have pulled you away from the presence of beauty and wonder.  The first step of being able to cherish the moment is to connect with your ability to hold things sacred. And the next step is to realize that that sacredness is available all the time, that you only need to plug in and tune in to make every moment that holy and wholly full of your presence.

On the mat:
In our asana practice this week we worked on plugging the head of the arm bones into the shoulder socket.  We worked balancing poses to bring our full awareness to the moment. When we practice balancing on our feet or hands (or heads for that matter!) we have to focus our thoughts purely on what we are doing or we fall over, so this is great practice for taming the Nag!  

Open To Grace: Breathe in and awaken to the present moment.
Cherish your breath and cherish this moment.
Hold this moment like you are holding a newborn baby.

Muscular Energy/Head of the Arm Bones Back: Pull into your heart to connect with a quiet place, free of the Nag.
Draw from the fingers into your heart, where all you cherish resides.
Draw the head of the arm bones back into the shoulder joint to plug yourself into this moment.

Inner Spiral: Widen your sit-bones to open up to the present moment.
Move your thighs back connecting to beautiful moments behind you that the Nag blocked you from seeing at the time.

Outer Spiral: Scoop your tailbone down and connect to the beauty of this pose at this time.

Organic Energy: Celebrate this pose as a celebration of this moment.