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Close to Om: Stretching Yoga from Your Mat to Your Life

Close to Om: Stretching Yoga from Your Mat to Your Life

by Andrea Marcum
Close to Om: Stretching Yoga from Your Mat to Your Life

Close to Om: Stretching Yoga from Your Mat to Your Life

by Andrea Marcum


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Andrea Marcum's Close to Om is a beautifully illustrated, practical and philosophical, yoga book that promotes and teaches mindfulness in both your yoga practice and your everyday life.

Before Marcum was a sought after celebrity yoga teacher, she was someone who thought she couldn’t do yoga because she couldn’t be still. Now after sixteen years of teaching yoga, she works with network executives, global brands, Hollywood actresses, and everyone in between.

Yoga is the yoke of body, mind, and spirit, and in Close to Om, Marcum offers a guide to teach all three aspects of yoga showcasing Marcum’s signature unique style, this program combines the teaching of poses with the exploration of yoga philosophy and insight into meditation and mindfulness.

By the end of Close to Om, readers will not only know a lot about yoga and its poses, but they’ll also know more about themselves: who they are, what they want, and how to get there—on and off their mat. The progression in Close to Om is the architecture of every yoga practice—and will show readers that how they do their yoga is how they do their life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250127594
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/26/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 212,931
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

ANDREA MARCUM has been teaching yoga in LA for sixteen years. She teaches at Yogaworks locally and at major events including Wanderlust festivals, as well as leading corporate and private retreats all over the world. Her classes are also available through My Yoga Gaia for streaming online and TV. Among her celebrity clients are actresses Heather Graham and Jennifer Jason Leigh, directors Noah Baumbach and Mark Pellington, and Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour celebrity life coach Angela Davis.

Read an Excerpt


S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T.

When you stop to take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for that moment.


In this chapter You awaken to the fact that you must stop in order to start.

You most likely know savasana (or corpse pose) as that moment at the end of a yoga practice when you stop and lie down. I'm going to tell you savasana is the beginning.

Savasana is the perfect place for us to S.T.O.P. so that we can S.T.A.R.T.

S. Stop moving, fixing, fidgeting, thinking about the past, or anticipating the future.

T. Take one breath at a time.

O. Observe. Is your jaw tight? Does something itch? Are you tapping your fingers or fidgety in your feet? What are you feeling? Thinking? Hearing? Just notice.

P. Pause before proceeding. Resist the temptation to jump ahead and move on. Let yourself simply be here observing for a moment.

Then ...

S. Start to make space. Space is where possibility lives. Feel the capacity to create space in your body, mind, and breath. Start with the space between your fingers and toes, between your shoulders and your ears, and between your inhales and exhales.

T. Turn down the volume. Feel as though you have your hand on the volume knob of negative chatter, distractions, and excuses, and start to turn the volume down.

A. Accept and acknowledge. Accept where you are right now and start to acknowledge room for expansion and improvement without finding fault.

R. Renew. Let spacious, quiet acceptance facilitate your new start.

T. Take thoughtful action.

Only then can we awaken. Awakening is the first step in a shift toward positive change. In our body and mind we're like those snow globes you shake and fill with chaotic, blinding snow until we stop, breathe, and let the snow of our agitated bodies and overstimulated minds subside — allowing us to awaken to the landscape within.

When we S.T.O.P. we can let go of our elusive quest for worldly solutions to our unhappiness, and S.T.A.R.T. to allow a quieter, more genuine joy to come to the surface. It's a pause for us to "be" instead of perpetuating the constant and tumultuous "doing" our lives can be reduced to. The anticipation of knowing we have to rush to reach our destination, meet our deadline, or live up to imposed expectations can be a real buzz kill, making it nearly impossible to sit still. But if we don't S.T.O.P. the madness, how can any of us shift our internal climate from turbulent to temperate?

As a yoga teacher, I've watched thousands of agitated bodies, tapping hands and feet, darting eyes, and clearly spinning minds struggle to stay where they are until I set them free. Restlessness can be very convincing. In my classes I have some serial savasana duckers, those who skip it and leave early every time. As a student even I have had those times where I've spent almost the entire class planning my escape, plotting the moment when I could slip out unnoticed and hurl myself back into the comfort of the insanity outside. Only to be reassured that like an unfinished conversation, leaving midstream is never satisfying.

So how do we access this subtle landscape that leads us ultimately to more freedom, calm, and possibility? Just as we do with athletic poses like arm-balances and backbends, we need to allow ourselves to discover in increments. I believe it's important to start by breaking things into manageable bits. I'm not asking you to sign a contract for twenty-minute headstands, days of solemn silence, and zero signs of fun — just bite-size, easily digested practices you can do consistently before you decide whether you're going to the gym or if you should reach for the remote, sautéing or steaming your broccoli, and if you should return those shoes you bought.

In my classroom, before we begin, the first thing we do is S.T.O.P. so that we can S.T.A.R.T. We climb onto our mats and into a child's pose or comfortable seat to pause and let both ourselves and the room settle. Though physically we may not be sprawled out on the floor in the typical savasana position, mentally and emotionally we are taking a savasana of sorts. As you begin your journey Close to OM you must do the same, S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. — create a conscious savasana time-out so you can tune in.

B. K. S. Iyengar likens savasana to a snake shedding its dead skin to reveal the vibrant colors of newness beneath. Our S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. savasana allows us to let go of what is not needed so we can blossom anew.


In this book we're going to do a number of exercises together that involve marinating in the assignment for a certain amount of time. First, you'll read through the instruction, then you'll use any method of time-keeping that works for you: your phone, a setting on your watch, a good old fashioned cooking timer, or you can use @OM in the dropdown menu at There you'll find audio guidance for the exercise you've just read, and the timing is all taken care of for you.

Within these pages, you and I may find ourselves doing the same yoga pose, but we will never have exactly the same experience while we're in it. Some of us are inspired to expedite the end zone, while others enjoy a slower, more methodical strategy. Personally, I've come back to this material over and over again, year after year — sometimes moving through things linearly and often revisiting and lingering in specific chapters and principles that speak to me at that moment.

Just like modifying the postures themselves so they best suit you, I encourage you to find your own tempo, pace, and schedule. Though I appreciate an eight-weeks-to or twenty-eight-days-to format for books and programs designed to motivate us, I see our progression of awaken, transform, and unite as ongoing and alive, as the architecture of every yoga practice, every relationship, every day, and every season of our constantly changing lives. I believe we have the opportunity to begin again and again, with every breath and in myriad situations. But you have to really do it. You have to climb out of the stands and onto the field.

We're going to find our way into a classic savasana pose and take some time to appreciate the inherent S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T that lives within it.

Lie down on your back, arms along your sides but not glued to your ribs, legs a little bit wider than hip distance apart. Allow your feet to naturally fall open a bit. If your lower back is tender, you might prefer to bend your knees and put your feet on the ground. Snuggle your shoulder blades to melt down your back instead of riding up into your ears. Feel the back of your head and the backs of your hands heavy into the ground. Let your fingers crinkle toward your palms with relaxation. Appreciate the support of the earth beneath you, how it literally has your back, reinforcing safe surrender. Imagine your muscles turning into liquid and that liquid seeping into the floorboards beneath you, your bones sinking into the ground as if elementally returning to the earth. Yield to these bodily sensations and allow the blizzard of thoughts and stories in your snow globe head to succumb to the calm resolve. Reach full S.T.O.P. — body and mind.

Stay here for five minutes using your timer or @OM.


We can S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. anywhere at any time — in your office when you're ready to strangle your boss, in your parked car after dropping off screaming kids, when you've tried in vain to reach an actual human being instead of an automated phone menu, or before starting a new project or task.

Begin by taking little S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. savasanas throughout the day. You don't have to take the actual pose like you did On Your Mat (though you're welcome to), but you will find your way toward the palpable calm you felt while in the posture. Sit without returning a text or e-mail, pause without planning, stand and close your eyes without seeing your shopping list ... just for thirty seconds. Try to fit three in per day. Set your timer or use @OM. When you feel you are arriving at thirty seconds, try a full minute, then maybe even two. Notice how it stops the confusion and provides you with a new platform from which to start again. As Anne Lamott says, "Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you."


Present vs. Tense

There is never anything but the present, and if one cannot live there, one cannot live anywhere.


In this chapter you awaken to the fact that landing in the present moment is the recipe for stepping out of your own way and into the fullness of your life.

Ask anyone "How are you?," and you're likely to get "busy" or " tired" as a response. In fact, we're so hopped up on hectic we've started to allow it to define not just how, but who we are. Our bodies and minds are held hostage by chronic stress. Stress is conflict between desire/expectation and current reality. When we S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. we begin to become present to what is instead of exhausting ourselves by ruminating on a past we cannot change or obsessively rehearsing for a future that isn't here yet. Breathing allows us to land in the present moment, get out of our own way, and build upon S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T.

Let's take a look at how stress paralyzes us. Here's an example (you can find audio guidance for this exercise @OM too):

Imagine standing and squeezing your toes as tightly as you can. Keep squeezing them as you tense up the rest of your feet as much as possible without stopping. Let this rigidity travel up to your ankles and into your lower legs (keep squeezing your toes and feet!). Tense up your upper legs, your hips, your belly, your butt, and your back muscles. (How are those toes and feet doing?) Now curl up your fingers and hands into angry fists, tighten your forearms and upper arms too. Shrug your shoulders into your ears. Don't let any of the stiffness you've created dissipate. Squish up your neck and throat as well as your face. Let yourself become a gigantic stress ball and don't let one bit of it go! Without releasing any squeezing, try to lean forward and touch your toes ... no, no don't loosen any of it ...

It's impossible, right?

The intention is there, but the tension makes you a prisoner in your own body.

Now place your hands on your chest and feel your breath rise and fall. Envision that you have gills (I know, just stay with me) and that those gills are filling up and allowing you to breathe more and more deeply, bringing richer, smoother breaths into your body with each inhale and exhale. S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. — become present to where you are and what you're feeling right now, not what you think you should feel, or will feel, or have felt before. Sense the spaciousness of your inhales and the rooted, grounded calm of your exhales. Notice the shift in your body and how relaxation and ease (which remind you a lot of savasana) are replacing the stress and tension you just indulged. Powerful conscious breathing is the foundation of yoga and meditation practice. You can feel debilitating drama start to shift to the background and spacious possibility rise in your consciousness.

Remain here and experience the calm simplicity of your breathing for one minute. After a full minute, gently consider folding at the hips and reaching for your toes. Take note of how you've managed to get out of your own way. You may not actually get all that close to touching your toes, but this time you can definitely move toward your intention to do so.

Our breath is something we often take for granted. We breathe all the time unconsciously or else we wouldn't be alive. But for most of us this unconscious breathing is tense, erratic, and shallow. Certainly you bumped up against this in the exercise above. In yoga we refer to breath work as pranayama. Pranayama literally translates as "to extend vital life force," but don't let the lofty-sounding definition scare you off. Breathing is a tool accessible to us all that allows us to land in our body and to quiet our mind.


Let's awaken to the fundamentals of our breathing. Even if yours is a steady diet of nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and kapalabahti (breath of fire), meet me here at the breath work ABCs:




Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor a little bit wider than hip distance apart. Let your knees knock in on one another so your lower back feels comfortable. Place your hands on your belly and notice your breath. Become Aware. That's all — just pay attention. Does your breath feel shallow? Choppy? Rushed? Do you favor your inhale or your exhale? As you take note, can you do so with Benevolence (kindness and grace) and allow yourself to relax into Calm? Can you feel your abdomen rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale? Are you able to let this rise and fall, slow down, deepen, and widen? Take a few moments here just to observe.

Now that you've discovered your ABCs lying on your back, you're going to add them to a bit of movement using a simple flow called Cat/Cow. Come onto your hands and knees. If your knees are unhappy here, pad them with a blanket or towel and/or feel free to keep your toes tucked under for more support.

As you inhale, arch your back, pulling your chest through the gateway of your arms and lengthening your spine.

As you exhale, round and dome your back, drawing your belly toward your spine. Try it on for size, and then begin to find a rhythm — inhaling and exhaling, arching and contracting. Pay special attention to your breath and to how it facilitates Awareness, Benevolence, and Calm even amid this more dynamic movement. Allow the sensations of the postures to deepen your experience of the ABCs. As I'm sure you'll notice, Cat/Cow happens to be a delicious release for your tin-man spine and slumped-in-my-seat shoulders too. Appreciate how simple breathing and movement replenish and refresh from the inside out. Awareness, Benevolence, Calm — body, mind, spirit.

In addition to your daily practice of thirty-second S.T.O.P. S.T.A.R.T savasana pauses throughout the day, you'll add these ABCs when you first wake up in the morning and before you go to bed. It's super straightforward: S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T., and then lie down and breathe into your ABCs for five minutes just like we did together above (you can even throw in a few Cat/Cows before if you'd like).

And yes, you have the time to do it. Wake up five minutes earlier and spend five fewer minutes perusing or the same headlines. This is the perfect thing to do while your coffee is brewing or your teakettle is heating up in the morning. Just decide you're going to stay clear of your computer or mobile screens (except for using @OM) until you're done with your five minutes. At night make this a non-negotiable part of your bedtime ritual. Lie down, on the floor or even on your bed, S.T.O.P., S.T.A.R.T., and breathe into Awareness, Benevolence, and Calm. It's that simple ... but you have to really do it. Twice. Every day.


Earlier I encouraged you to modify your postures and find your own pace on your mat. The same is true of On Your OM. Each one of us will have our own unique self-actualization understanding as we make our way through our Close to OM journey together. It's taken me years to truly comprehend how to translate Present vs. Tense and ABCs from my mat to my life. ... and to be honest I'm still working on it. These juicy foundational elements never get boring. They provide ongoing insight when the tension of the first exercise in this chapter infiltrates everyday trials and tribulations: the grocery line you're standing in isn't moving fast enough — your kid or mate still isn't listening when you ask them to make the bed — you take a business hiccup personally.

But then you awaken.

Out in the world it may not be instant, but from your work on your mat you remember to S.T.O.P., recognize your agitation, and become aware that you're tangled up in stress. This might be as far as you get for a while, and that's fabulous progress. If you're impatient, anxious that you should be able to S.T.A.R.T. right away, or tightly wound around how it's supposed to go from here, you'll only jam yourself deeper into your initial tension. When you find yourself at the eye of an emotional storm, observe what's happening. Just notice. Like you did on your mat.

Next, step into your office, the other room, or somewhere conducive to placing your hands on your chest, as we did at the beginning of the chapter to witness the rise and fall of your breath. Is it choppy? Shallow? Rushed? Are you able to convince it to slow and deepen? Envision yourself lying in the ease of savasana (in fact, lie down on the ground and actually do it if it's helpful and doable where you are). Can you be here with your breath instead of seduced by dizzying empirical drama? Getting to this point is its own breakthrough and incredible evidence that your On Your Mat discovery is spilling into your life.


Excerpted from "Close to OM"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Andrea Marcum.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction 1

Part I Awaken 11

1 S.T.O.P to S.T.A.R.T. 13

2 Present vs. Tense 18

3 To Begin, Begin 24

4 Inquire Within 31

5 Clearing the Way 40

Part II Transform 55

6 What's In the Way Is the Way 57

7 Practice Makes Progress 63

8 Learning to Become Bendy 80

9 Val-you and Truth 89

10 Choices 102

11 Creating Space Is Creative Space 110

Part III Unite 123

12 Compassion 125

13 From Your Head to Your Heart 134

14 Integrity 145

15 Connection 164

16 Our Ongoing OM 179

Appendix 1 Sequences 183

Appendix 2 The Eight Limbs of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras 199

Glossary 200

Suggested Reading 205

Favorite Media/Podcast Resources 206

Acknowledgments 207

Index 208

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