When I used to practice yoga at a studio in Miami, one of my favorite moments was listening to poetry. My instructor, Maria, was the one who taught me how to do Hatha Yoga when I was 23. After savasana, we all sat on the hardwood floor, our minds and bodies relaxed and open to the beautiful poetry emanating from Maria’s lips. She was so calm and peaceful, and she was the perfect instructor to guide me on my path and journey towards healing. I’ll never forget her patience in helping me reach shoulder stand for the first time, despite the fears I was going through at that time.
Now, I practice yoga on my own, and so can you. Just play your favorite yoga DVD or YouTube video, and at the beginning of the practice or at the end, you can read a poem out loud and listen to the words as if you are meditating. You can use a poem to ground you at the beginning of the session, or you can use it towards the end of the practice so the words resonate with your soul.
Incorporating poetry into a yoga practice can make the practice more meaningful and can allow you to listen more clearly to the words, noticing the line breaks, the diction, the lyricism. Poetry after yoga can also allow you to put into words the principles you are trying to experience in your daily life such as acceptance and compassion. Here are some poems to guide you on your journey: Namaste.
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream, and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in—
the wild with the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Someone said my name in the garden,
while I grew smaller
in the spreading shadow of the peonies,
grew larger by my absence to another,
grew older among the ants, ancient
under the opening heads of the flowers,
new to myself, and stranger.
When I heard my name again, it sounded far,
like the name of the child next door,
or a favorite cousin visiting for the summer,
while the quiet seemed my true name,
a near and inaudible singing
born of hidden ground.
Quiet to quiet, I called back.
And the birds declared my whereabouts all morning.
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break