Wabi Sabi on and off the mat

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget about your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”  –  Leonard Cohen

The concept of Wabi Sabi has its roots in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and is sometimes explained using the example of a well loved teacup, made by an artist’s hands, cracked and chipped by use.

Richard Powell writes in Wabi Sabi Simple:  “It is a way of life that appreciates and accepts complexity while at the same time values simplicity.  Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect.”

In our yoga practice, we could approach our asanas – and perhaps ourselves too – with the acceptance that we, and our practice, are not perfect.

I encourage my students to not only accept, but to celebrate the imperfections.  We start class with a few minutes of meditation – simply becoming aware and present.  With eyes closed, we simply sit – in hero pose or simply with ankles crossed.  Then just noticing the environment around us – sounds, sensations against the skin.  Then bringing the awareness a little closer – noticing anything in our bodies – things that might be stuck, rigid or out of balance.  Noticing good sensations too.  Noticing any emotions – big or small.  Thoughts – and not hanging on to the thoughts or emotions, but just acknowledging them and letting them pass.  Then bringing the awareness into the breath.  Just as it is – flowing naturally.

When we do our asanas, I instruct and encourage a lot of “peeling back” – peeling open layers and revealing what is there.  For example, in Virabhadrasana I, hook the thumbs, and from the outside edges of the hands, peeling back – and feeling the rolling back of the muscles of the arms from the palms down to the shoulders.  I use asanas like Supta Baddha Konasana – a great hip opener and stretch of the chest (intensified with a block or bolster between the shoulders), while also being a great “revealer” as well as a nurturing pose.

During practice, I encourage the students to notice the sensations they feel in their asanas – in their bodies and also if and how it affects their emotions and thoughts.

We end class with:  “Allow yourself to see and care for yourself exactly as you are.”

Sending loving kindness


Helpful sources:  Leonard Koren, artist and architect, and Jessie Sholl, healthy blogger
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