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Sensory Perception

What is That Smell?

During the entirety of its 14 years of operation, my yoga studio smelled really, really good. The scent of the space was originally unplanned but ended up a well-curated mix of Murphy Wood Oil Soap, Temple Incense, and various essential oils emanating from the many saturated eye pillows used during hundreds and hundreds of Restorative Yoga classes. I wish I could bottle that smell. I wish I could give one of those bottles to each person who crossed the threshold during those 14 serene and scent-filled years. In addition to good smells, we were fortunate to practice on a squeaky clean bird's-eye maple floor that had no cement beneath it because it was original to the 1930s building, held up by joists - a natural "spring floor" easy on the bones, which in today's world would cost thousands of dollars to reconstruct. The walls were plaster, so we had quiet from the retail neighbors on either side. Lots of happy plants lived in the front of the house due to the south-facing windows. We had it all in that yoga studio: good smels, good feels, and quietude.

What Are You Looking At?

Over the years I have taught my students about the history of yoga, the dynamics of breathing, and the meaning of the word "Namaste," in addition to many of the yoga poses. I have given my expert opinion on the best brand of tissue to use. (Vicks-scented Puffs). One of the most important things that I taught them was to stop using their visual sense as primary and instead to utilize their sense of hearing - both outward and inward listening to what we call our "inner voice." When new to a physical discipline in the realm of somatics, people tend to look around the room at the teacher and the other students. This is necessary because the majority of us are primarily visual learners. A good teacher of yoga respects this fact, and teaches accordingly to new students by giving plenty of visual cues. However, for the seasoned yoga student, familiar with and committed to the teacher and to the class, that same good teacher of yoga will walk around the room instructing the class with their voice just as a professor of Economics 101 would stand behind a podium while lecturing a class.

Rule: No Tripping, No Falling

Yoga is the oldest and most widely practiced form of somatics - a form of body movement to which your internal physical perception is focused and developed. For this reason, I never had mirrors in my studio. Looking into the mirror at yourself or looking around the room at others - especially neophytes when you are one yourself - is a bad plan, a bad habit and a mild form of crazy. The act of judging yourself based upon what your body used to do ten years ago or even how it performed just yesterday, is another form of wrong-thinking. But we do it. Bad habits and bad plans persist unless we set out to change them.

The fact is, you slept and ate differently yesterday than you did today. Your blood pressure, your mood, your resting heart rate are all different each day. So, if it makes no sense to compare ourselves to ourselves from day to day, how can we think that comparing ourselves to others is a sane form of touchstone for the present moment? We can strive to focus on how we feel in this moment - this golden present. A good goal for us lovers and livers of said present is to always be aware of our surroundings and how we move and live in that particular environment. The bruises, scrapes, and scratches of daily life are a record of how well we are paying attention to ourselves and our movements in relation to objects and others. If you know for certain that the bruise on your right ankle is from when you whacked it on the car door yesterday, then you were present for that moment. Accidents happen. But if you really were fully present in that moment by being completely conscious of your movements, you would not have whacked your ankle on the door to begin with since inanimate objects don't tend to lurch out for our ankles in passing. Why is all this conscious awareness important? A life goal of staving off a hip replacement, for one thing.

For those of us who have chosen to hold hands with the ancient discipline of yoga on our path of life, we reap the dynamic benefits of the aforementioned sensory awareness, which eventually lead us into the sublimation of the senses. We all experience both the pleasurable side of our senses as well as the not so pleasurable - those loud and irritating noises, ugly sights, bad smells and tastes as well as uncomfortable touches. If we can learn to ride along with the good and the bad sensory perceptions in life, we can possibly find balance through it all - both literally and figuratively. Herein lies the benefit of these vicissitudes: they lead us to the development of our intuition in the form of extrasensory perception.

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