Friday, November 27, 2015

The Echoing Green: Yoga Practice for the Holidays

The Echoing Green: Yoga Practice for the Holidays

I am writing this the day after Thanksgiving, November 27, 2015. There are 28 days until Christmas and 34 days to the New Year. I like counting and to be sure, the years are adding up. I have noticed that somehow the passing of the years is not working like math. It isn’t a simple addition-- this year plus the next and the next. Something more than math seems to be happening.

I have been through almost 50 holiday seasons. Throughout those years, I have taken many forms- baby, toddler, child, adolescent, and college student. I have known Christmas day as an angry daughter, forgiving daughter, and humble daughter. I have held my own daughters’ hands and stroked their hair as they struggled to sleep on Christmas Eve. I have held my mother’s thin hand and read her stories during her last Christmas here on Earth.

In all these years of change, there are these echoes.

I am reminded of William Blake’s poem, “The Echoing Green.” Here is an excerpt.

The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring
To welcome the spring.
The skylark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells’ cheerful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the echoing green.
William Blake (1757-1827)   

The echoing green takes the form of a holiday canvas upon which we paint our memories. Each one begins with the penciled sketching of our family, religious, and cultural traditions. There are broad, thick painted strokes of tree-decorating day, the slow carefully detailed aggregation of packages under the twinkling branches, and the painful waiting for the paint to dry and the big day to come. There are sharply scratched-in arguments as family pressures build negotiating details and tensions arise around silly stuff like shopping. There are the added accents of parties dappled with laughter and run through with tears as we embrace the people we haven’t seen and miss people we will never hold again. In this way, the memories layer like the strokes of a paintbrush or the notes in a song.

Photo from

And so it goes, year after year this orchestral arrangement of the holidays unfolds. I watch the refrain repeat with slowly aging eyes and a wiser, more softly beating heart. I want to linger over each rich note as the song seemingly speeds by- sometimes too quick to catch.

Over the years I have found that to fully hear the echoes, I must be present.

I owe whatever presence I have to my yoga practice. I have learned how to breathe through unbearable sadness and ground my feet during overwhelming joy. I have practiced opening my heart when it wants to close and closing it when it needs to rest. I have learned to balance when the floor seems unsteady as if only on foot and to use my very core to hold what I know is good. I can stand as a warrior for what I want for my daughters and my husband. More, my warrior can take the form of a steady fighter, one with an open heart, and a warrior for peace. Because of my practice, I can face all that comes my way and still rest at the end of the day, breath and heartbeat steady. I am able to truly hear almost any song these holidays bring no matter its depth or potency.

Right now, late on this day, I welcome the echoing green of the holidays. It is layered handsomely and oh- so much more than math. If I am lucky, I will see and hear what these days hold-- the artistry of a grand painting and the brilliance of a symphony each comprised of the rich texture of what I know to be true.

My yoga practice has allowed be to hear the lesson of the echoes as they wisely repeat what matters- love, peace, and connection- Catherine- that is all you really need.


Catherine Cook-Cottone

The Yoga Bag

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Effectively Judging “Other” Kinds of Yoga: Five Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Effectively Judging  “Other” Kinds of Yoga:
Five Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

You are reading this because, you, like me, think it is important to make sure everyone knows how to effectively judge, evaluate, and reject other types of yoga and yoga practitioners.  

Why judge? Because being judgmental, on the positive side of righteousness, and morally superior is very important to your long-term journey as a yogi. I am pretty sure that is what Patanjali meant when he described discernment in the Yoga Sutras. Further, “yoga” essentially means “union.” As the ego is 50% of the ego-and-soul union, it is important that you are sure to carefully tend and nurture the ego. You see, our culture may not sufficiently feed the development of the ego. We must do more.

To help, I have reviewed many posts that judge, evaluate, and exact moral superiority on “other” kinds of yoga. Then, I distilled what I learned into the FAQ format (i.e., frequently asked question). Once you read through this, you can write an effective, judgmental, and morally superior post of your own.

First, you are welcome!!!!

Second, Please write! My only hope is that I can see more judgmental yoga posts in my news feed on Facebook. It does so much for our community. So please, please write. 

FAQ #1

Is my type of yoga “good” enough to judge others? (or) Is my yoga, the “right” yoga?

Take a deep breath and relax. When you are judging others, it does not matter what kind of yoga you practice. No matter the nature of your practice, you can still be morally righteous. When judging yoga, there is this one rule. All kinds of yogis can judge all other kinds of yoga. Do not worry if your yoga is too Western, Eastern, hot, cold, yin, yang, vinyasa-ish, hatha-ish, restorative, fast, slow, loud, quiet, powerful, or spiritual. The focus is not on your practice. It is on how other types of yoga are wrong. Remember that.

FAQ #2

What if I don’t really practice?

Great question. Because the focus of judging is external, your own practice is irrelevant. Keep your eye on what others are doing and how you feel about it. Do not worry about your own moral, physical, relational, or spiritual development. In fact, an internal focus could get you off track and might weaken your need to judge. Keep your focus outward.

FAQ #3

What if I don’t’ have a solid sense of the research or yoga philosophy?

That is okay too. If you look up the definition of judging, you will see that it is about forming an opinion. This is good news. In order to judge another kind of yoga, you do not need to educate yourself about the type of yoga or yoga in general. You simply need to form an opinion. Once you have formed an opinion, you have all that you need to judge. In fact, if you educate yourself, you take a risk. Like looking internally or focusing on your own practice, gaining knowledge of, and familiarity with others and their yoga experiences may reduce your desire to judge. Accordingly, I advise against it.

FAQ #4

What if my judgments and moral superiority are hurtful of others?

It is interesting you ask this. If you are asking this question you might have lost focus. Judgment is about “correction” and not connection. That is, we do not judge others to feel closer to them, have empathy, or worry about hurting them. We judge others to help correct their ways. You see, we have formed an opinion and have judged them. That is all that matters. If it hurts a little, or even a lot, it is okay- because correcting them is the most important thing. Connection, relationship, loving-kindness all get in the way of judgment and moral superiority. Avoid these things.

FAQ #5

What if my judgments don’t help others change or grow?

You have so many good questions. However, like the previous question, this question shows you are off focus. As a morally superior judge, you should not be too interested in helping others grow. In fact, there is a substantial body of behavioral research that suggests that harsh judgment of others does not, in fact, help them grow. Psychologists have discovered many other factors such as warm supportive relationships, connection, collaboration, and empathy effectively support behavioral change and growth. Appropriately, judgment is not about helping others change, it is about having the right opinion. Do not get confused. It is important to stay on track.

So that is it. Do not worry about your own yoga, your own practice, your knowledge of yoga in general or of the type of yoga which you are judging, if you hurt others, or if you are helping others grow. Form an opinion, focus externally, and judge. It is the RIGHT thing to do.

There is one final note, do not worry about what your missing when you spend your mental resources, time, and emotions being upset about what the other yogis are doing. You are only missing chances to grow, connect with others, learn, and develop your own practice.

Who needs that shit? Not you.


Catherine Cook-Cottone,
The Yoga Bag

Image from