low and slow

Cooking many meals per week is a cornerstone of our household since my wife and I began living together. During this pandemic, we cook most meals we eat. Cook enough and you start to see your patterns. Now many months into this new routine, I observed a tendency to treat vegetables the same ways. Onions always cooked on the hotter side with a lot of color. Brussels sprouts? Roasted and charred. A lot of heat can be great, but I was surprised the other day when I did the onions at a more medium-low heat with little color. The chopped garlic was fragrant and danced around in the pan just for a while before the brussels sprouts went in. I used a generous amount of broth and simmered them for about 12 minutes. The result was a different taste. There were sweet tones from cooking longer and with a more gentle intensity.

My postural practice went through a similar revision this fall. When that lump below my ear turned out to be a tumor in my parotid gland, I had to get a somewhat invasive surgery with a recovery period. My movements, particularly for the first two weeks, were very limited. But with props and creativity, I was able to do a lot. Forward extensions with my head resting became a source of comfort. Because I was very nervous leading up to the surgery, there was a lot to let go of. Suffice it to say, now 6 weeks or so out of surgery, I’m aware of the balance that I need to strike as I add more ‘heat’ to the practice. Strong poses, like for instance parsvakonasana, can still be cooked low and slow. Reflective action and breath awareness make the work actually yoga for me – at the risk of sounding very cliche.

If you are stuck at home with some time and wondering what to practice, try practicing few poses with a careful attention to your feelings in each pose. The restorative poses, such as supta baddha konasana, are certainly the easiest ones to do this with. But then I’m confident you can take that into whatever you do, and whatever you want to work on. Try it. Otherwise, in my experience, we can do active postures with too rigorous a mindset and just get stuck in measuring physical progress (“can I touch my toes/ bind/ come up with straight legs”). Those things have their place; it’s hard to be ‘quiet’ in head balance if you cannot execute it. But if you can see the refinements we make as a way in which to go deeper ‘inside’ and more effectively reflect, the experience is very different.