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5 good reasons to let a timer be your practice buddy

My timer, and constant practice companion

My timer, and constant practice companion

I love my timer.

It’s no longer handsome. I dropped it once, and the face came off and had to be glued back on, and the glue shows. But that’s  just the aging face of a friend, who is no less lovable for a few wrinkles.

It has the excellent capacity for continually repeating any interval of time, from seconds to hours. In backbends, with the timer set at a doable 20 seconds, I tell myself I can hold on until the next beep, and then maybe the one after that.

In shoulder stand, leg stretches and seated forward bends, I program 59 seconds, the longest period you can enter that still ends with a soft beep. (At a full minute, you get three piercing blasts.)

It was given to me by my friend Terri, which makes me love it more.

And it’s the same timer Gioia Irwin used back in the days when she taught in the common room at Helen’s Court Co-op. That soft beep was the soundscape for some of the most magical moments of my yoga life so far.

So yes,  I’m biased. But I can think of at least five good reasons to add a timer to your pile of yoga props:

  1. The beep becomes an incentive. When you’re working on endurance in strength poses, you can set it for a small increment, mere seconds, depending on the pose, and give yourself more encouragement to hang in.
  2. It allows for objectively equal time in two-sided poses. Because we are all physically unbalanced, time will always move at a quicker pace on one side. You might choose to stay an unequal length of time on each side, but it ought to be a choice.
  3. It knocks out a distraction when you’re trying to concentrate. Like the pomodoro, the timer sets up a fence around your time. If in sitting meditation, or in a 10-minute stint of sun salutations, you feel an urge to confirm that time is, indeed, passing, you can see through the distraction more easily when you know the timer is on.
  4. It gives objective feedback for timings in poses. How long was that shoulder stand, anyway? I am sometimes surprised that what felt like 15 minutes was really nine, and vice versa.
  5. Most important of all, setting a timer allows you to surrender control in restorative poses. Usually it’s the teacher you depend on to get you up off the floor after Savasana. At home, the timer lets you settle into your 20-minute Savasana, simultaneously being timed, in the outer world, and floating free of time inside.

I’ve talked with people who say they’d rather not use a timer. It’s mechanical. It’s a crutch. You have a perfectly good internal timer that will get more accurate as you use it.

Those arguments always remind me of the years my mother spent resisting getting a clothes dryer because she loved the smell of laundry that had dried outside. Thing is, it rains a lot here. And when it’s raining, it’s nice to have a dryer. When it’s sunny, you don’t have to use it.

For me, and I think for many of us, the prevailing climate is distraction. When I turn on the timer, I have one more defense against the monkey mind. So I’ll keep listening for the beep.

Have you used a timer? Found it useful? Do you have other strategies to keep you focused in your practice time? I’d love to know about them.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

How to Keep Going When You’re Practicing on a Plateau

10 Tips for Building a Home Yoga Practice

It’s Not All Bliss: How to Work with Poses You Don’t Like, Part One

It’s Not All Bliss: How to Work with Poses You Don’t Like, Part Two


Ubaya Padangusthasana will feel good at the end, I'd say

Bite-Sized Random Acts of Yoga continue to occur daily on my dining room table.

Lots to link here. The straight legs – or straight leg in Marichyasana I – will do the same work in all three poses.

The lower back will be lifting  in all three as well.  Check this photo of Parsva Halasana (it’s the 5th photo in the article) to see a beautifully elongated pose.

Click here to see an image of  Ubaya Padangusthasana, (scroll down the page of yoga-cuties in poses to find it).

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kelly Murphy October 28, 2010, 2:17 pm

    And the deep soft groins too. Along with extended inner legs to inner edges( big toe side) of the feet to infinity.
    Thanks Eve!

    • Eve October 28, 2010, 2:33 pm

      Ah Kelly, you are so much more aware of groins than I am. Once again I’m thinking, “better try that out. . . . “

  • Becky October 28, 2010, 12:57 pm

    I love using my timer, although I currently use my Iphone because I haven’t found the perfect interval timer yet! Nice thing about the Iphone is I can set the sound to be really sweet and tranquil when I’m in restorative poses, or more crisp when I’m doing other poses. I use it for sirsasana as I’m trying to build up my time in that pose and am often SO surprised how long 3 minutes actually is :). I also use it for my chair shoulderstand because it’s a hard pose for me and I need to build up strength and endurance. Using the timer lets me really gauge where I’m at with that pose and if I’m improving my strength (right leg starts to cramp in that one). Then of course there’s the restoratives. If I don’t set a timer I will fall asleep and spend all day long in supta baddhakonasana :). Maybe I will have to check out your timer.
    On a side note, I clicked on the link for a picture of parsva halasana and it comes up ‘Page Not Found’. Just an fyi.

    • Eve October 28, 2010, 2:50 pm

      Hey Becky,
      Great idea to change the ring tone on the iphone. I’ve used mine as a timer on a few occasions when I’ve been practicing at the studio, but I’ve never thought to change the sound.
      I’m with you on how long three minutes can be in Sirsasana.
      I don’t know who sells the timer I have – if you find out, let me know, okay?
      And thank you for pointing out the bad link. I’ve fixed it.