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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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).