Taking refuge is something all human beings crave from time to time. We take refuge every time we step on the yoga mat. We hope for refuge when we come home from an exhaustive day. Shaping our practice into a tool to be used all day long, with all those we encounter, and with all the tasks we perform, allows us to experience refuge from the relentless mind, to feel refuge with the body, and to live refuge from the heart.
Judith Hanson Lasater is offering a 5-day training this April in London that will offer insight into and focus on what we need to practice all day long with clarity and compassion. This type of practice will not only help us personally, but will help us to create the kind of world we want to live in, and to leave to our children and others who follow us. Read on to find out more.
Taking refuge is something all human beings crave from time to time. We take refuge every time we step on the yoga mat. We hope for refuge when we come home from an exhaustive day. We might be craving ease, comfort, and a simple state of being when we walk in the park or sit on the back porch, looking at the stars.
It is easy to feel relaxed and present after a delicious Savasana, practiced in the sweet comfort of a yoga class. We may also be committed to our regular yoga practice at home as a way to find refuge, and it is usually an effective strategy to do so. But unfortunately, when we try to take that space of refuge and equanimity through the whole rest of the day after practicing, it sometimes seems like an impossible task.
After a class or home practice, what happens when we open the door and emerge onto the busy streets, or when we are done, we simply fall back into the “busy streets” of our mind? What happens when we arrive home after work to our familiar surroundings, familiar patterns, and familiar relationships?
I have written a book called Living Your Yoga that has inspired a number of workshops on the topic of shaping our practice into a tool to be used all day long, with all those we encounter, and with all the tasks we perform.
I am offering one such intensive this April in London and invite you to consider it. First and foremost, my intent in this training is based on absolute practicality. I want us to experience refuge from the relentless mind, to feel refuge with the body, and to live refuge from the heart, right now and every day. How to find, nurture and sustain this sense of refuge as much of the day as we can, is what I want to share.
The training will offer insight into and focus on what we need to practice all day long with clarity and compassion. This type of practice will not only help us personally, but will help us to create the kind of world we want to live in, and to leave to our children and others who follow us.
Each morning of the workshop will begin with a short meditation followed by an active asana practice. In our highly intellectual lives, we need to regularly drop deeply down into the embodied and intuitive wisdom of the body.
I like to say that “your body is smarter than you are”, meaning that your body knows how to move, how to heal itself, and how to serve your will. It can sustain many functions at the same time so that our brain is free for thinking, planning, creating, and dreaming.
Active asana practice reminds us to listen to the brilliant languages this miraculous body uses to communicate with our consciousness: feelings, sensations, pleasure, discomfort, ease, happiness, sadness, joy, and others.
After lunch, we will explore several different topics throughout the five days. We will start with the way we talk to ourselves and others and how that shapes our internal and external worlds.
The center of this work will around empathy. What is empathy exactly? What does it sound like in our heads when we are deeply empathetic to ourselves? What does it sound like when we are deeply empathic to others?
I have found that the use of empathy is one of the most powerful tools I have ever encountered for keeping me centered, regardless of the surrounding circumstances of the moment. I have learned how to create, and sustain for longer and longer periods, a refuge in myself by using empathy, and am eager to share these ideas and techniques with you.
Another topic we will explore in the afternoons is concepts from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. I am especially thinking of those concepts that support and impart some important philosophical underpinnings about the way we view ourselves and our relationship to our deepest Self. When we do this, we will better understand the difference between “taking refuge from” and “taking refuge in”.
Our final theme will be a discussion of “Rest and Silence”. This topic will include naming the various stages of tiredness and fatigue we can go through and learning ways to protect our energy and stay more rested in a world that sometimes seems never to sleep. Being well-rested literally changes our brain chemistry, and is the foundation for living well in a state of refuge.
One way we can reduce the anxiety and fatigue that paradoxically keeps us from resting deeply is to understand the profound power of letting go. This includes learning the importance of letting go into whatever our state is right now so that we learn to choose “what is” right now instead of our expectations of “what should be”. So easy to say, so hard to do.
Each afternoon will conclude with practicing some Restorative yoga and pranayama.
My fondest hope is that our week together will be one of mutual satisfaction and will inspire us to re-dedicate ourselves to a deeper, moment-to-moment practice of this yoga we all love so much.
Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., PT, yoga teacher since 1971, and author of 10 books on yoga, including the forthcoming Yoga Myths: What We Need to Learn and Unlearn to Stay Safe and Happy on Our Yoga Mat.
This feature was originally published in the March 2020 issue of Om Yoga Magazine.