Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Water is your second lifeline, breathing is your first

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

When you’re practicing yoga in a hundred degree room with forty percent humidity for ninety minutes straight, the natural inclination is to medicate your suffering with water. Because it’s cold and refreshing and hydrating and satisfying.

But as my teacher loves to remind his students, water is your second lifeline, breathing is your first.

Think about it. When a person experiences a health emergency, the first thing the paramedics provide is oxygen. Nobody inserts a water tube up your nose. People need air. Breath is life. It’s the source of all things.

And nothing against water. It’s a close second on the scoreboard of human survival. But you can survive for three days without water. Oxygen is only three minutes.

And so, in yoga class, when the dizziness and the leg cramps and the dark thoughts come crashing in, the smartest response is to breathe, not drink. No matter how much money you spent on that shiny new vacuum insulated double stainless steel water bottle that keeps contents icy cold for up to eighteen hours, the smartest response is to breathe.

Oxygen first, water second.

It’s a perfect metaphor for life outside the yoga studio, too. Because when our suffering becomes intolerable, we’re given that same choice. We can reach for a crutch to soothe our pain, or we can regulate and refresh and rebuild ourselves with lifelines that are healthier.

And don’t make us have to pee every twenty minutes.

What’s your preferred method of medicating?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and workstudy volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

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You can’t spell recreation without creation

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Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Within weeks of taking my first yoga class, dozens of new ideas, thoughts, language, metaphors, examples, inspirations, influences and textures, that I never would have come across elsewhere, started pouring out me.

Which is interesting, considering how much sweat literally pours out of my body during class.

But once yoga became a staple in my recreational life, the level of originality in my writing skyrocketed to new levels. It’s like someone unlocked a valve, I took trip to another land and my feet have never returned to the ground.

You truly can’t spell recreation without creation.

Where do you get your best ideas?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and workstudy volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

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Find a filter to process your experiences

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Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

My yoga practice isn’t just a great physical workout, it’s also routine of confronting and working through my emotions.

And maybe it’s because the room is a hundred degrees. Maybe it’s because I’m half naked. Maybe it’s because I’m staring at myself in the mirror for ninety minutes and I have no choice but to work through my own stuff.

But after a few postures, any feelings and emotions and inner struggles that need to be dealt with, are.

Do you have a familiar place you go when you’re feeling scared or anxious or confused or overwhelmed and need to make sense of the world?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and workstudy volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

The shortest distance to the heart is through the body

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Clients ask me all the time, how do you know which projects to focus on? How do you decide where to invest your time and energy?

My answer is simple: Listen to what wants to be written.

Just start something, and in those first few minutes of action, scan yourself to see which muscles and bones and systems feel tight, energized or relaxed. Notice your posture and your breathing and your pulse and your toes. Listen to what your body is telling you, and you’ll have no doubt whether or not to proceed with a particular course of action or project.

I know, for example, that my anxiety typically manifests in my abdomen. In fact, yesterday I started working a new project that I thought I was excited about, but within two minutes I felt pangs in my stomach. And so, I calmly switched gears and moved on to a different project, one that created relaxation in my body instead of tension.

This useful practice is something my yoga instructor calls a physical diagnostic. It’s check in with your body to see where you’re at, at this very moment.

Half moon pose, for example, is a diagnostic posture. It comes early on in the yoga series, allowing students and teachers to feel out anatomical inconsistencies and gauge where their practice is at, for today. Because every day the body is different.

And so, whether you’re sinking your toes into the yoga mat, or sinking your teeth into a new project, always listen for what wants to be written.

The shortest distance to the heart is through the body. Learn to achieve focus as a function of physicality.

What are your bones trying to tell you right now?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and workstudy volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

These mirrors are expensive. Use them.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

My yoga instructor often reminds us that our main teacher is in the mirror. That the students are to become their own gurus.

Yes, the instructor will help to keep pace and control the heat and make corrections, but ultimately, it’s through the process of confronting of ourselves, warts and all, that activates real growth.

What a powerful tool to deepen your practice as a yoga student. In fact, what a helpful lesson off the mat, too. Because that which is scariest to confront often has the most to teach us.

Kierkegaard referred to anxiety as the nameless and formless uneasiness that has dogged the footsteps of modern man. And while that may be true, let’s not forget that anxiety is also a profound source of education for us. Just like the mirror in the yoga room. Anxiety reflects our reality back to us. It implores us to stand up and say aloud what’s missing. And so, in running from it, we lose our most precious opportunity for education as human beings.

Anytime I feel anxiety hot on my trail, I try to reserve a small portion of my brain for gratitude. I give thanks for those feelings. And instead of treating the moment as if it were an obstacle to overcome, I use it as a vehicle to answer some questions about myself. To learn what might lacking. To hear the story I’ve been telling myself about my own reality.

And more often than not, taking that small moment of awareness and curiosity leads me down a healthier path. One where I’m not averting my eyes from something in the mirror that I despise, but walking through the glass and see what lies on the other side.

Are you exposing your nakedness and rushing in to meet it?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and workstudy volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.