“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
Jim Barksdale

Yoga Practice – Closing Ritual

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I have an instinctual distrust of ritual behavior. Though I can understand that rituals can act as anchors for desired attention and action, my impression is that they can easily default into a training of absence – blind repetition devoid of attention or context. So it was interesting for me to witness over the last year or so, a ritual form at the end of my practice. It is a living ritual that has been changing, growing and refining and may continue to do so. It comes at the end of my sitting practice and before my chanting practice. This is its current state:

  1. Inhale opening and raising my palms up in front of me.
  2. Exhale covering my eyes (still closed from the sitting practice) with my palms.
  3. Stay for a breath or two.
  4. Inhale moving my palms away from my eyes back to an open and raised position.
  5. Exhale placing my hands on my heart space.
  6. Staying here at least for a few breaths … though this is growing and becoming a place I can inhabit for quite some time. It starts by bringing my attention to my own heart, offering softness and inviting healing. If there is something in my body that calls for healing, I spend some time there. After settling in my heart, if I feel called to do so, I open my heart and send it outwards. Sometimes I connect with one specific person. Sometimes I connect with “everyone and everything”. Sometimes I invite connection with people in my life … and I let them flow freely through my consciousness … offering them, as they appear, my heart.
  7. Inhale moving my palms away from my heart space back to an open and raised position.
  8. Exhale bowing forward my head and bringing my two palms together – cupped forming a space between them – to my forehead.
  9. I stay one or two breaths to arrive at this place.
  10. I dedicate a breath to the student in me.
  11. I dedicate a breath to the teacher.
  12. I dedicate a breath to my teacher Ziva.
  13. I dedicate a breath to my teacher Paul.
  14. I dedicate a breath to Paul’s teacher Desikachar.
  15. I dedicate a breath to Desikachar’s teacher (and father) Krishnamacharya.
  16. I dedicate a breath to all of their teachers.
  17. I dedicate a breath to all their teacher’s teachers.
  18. I dedicate a breath to the teachings.
  19. I dedicate a breath to prakrti – that which is eternally changing.
  20. I dedicate a breath to purusa – that which eternally sees.
  21. I dedicate a breath or two to the wholeness held by the preceding breaths – to Yoga. I  imagine breathing that wholeness into a small ball of light cupped in the space between my palms.
  22. I inhale moving my palms away from my forehead back to an open and raised position.
  23. I exhale opening my palms wider and lowering them further down. Staying for a breath or two, I offer the fruits of practice to … all … and imagine the small ball of light growing and expanding infinitely.
  24. On the next exhale I lower my palms to my knees and turn them facing down to indicate completion of the practice.
  25. I stay for another few breaths and gently open my eyes.
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