The Write Idea


Yoga Grammar

Filed under: grammar — ljcollins @ 4:40 pm
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I’m not much of a yogini, but I have happily taken yoga classes off and on for the last ten years.  I’ve had many lovely teachers, some of whom I adore beyond words.  And I know that my yoga practice has improved over the years. I know this not because I’m more flexible (I’m not) or stronger (maybe a little in the shoulders), but because of my capacity to maintain my yoga calm through to the end of class.  Why, you might ask, is this a new thing?  After all that nice stretching and breathing, what would keep you from leaving class in anything other than a state of blissful calm?

In a word, grammar.  Please know that I am not picking on any particular teacher because after all these years and more teachers than years, I can honestly say that I have never yet — not once! — heard a yoga teacher use the words “lay” and “lie” appropriately.

So here’s how it used to go:  after a nice long class of calming breaths, when the teacher would be preparing us for shavasana (the corpse pose or little nap at the end of class) I would suddenly hear her say, “Now, lay down on your mats.”  And the hair on the back of my neck would stand up as surely as if fingernails had been scratched across a chalkboard (remember chalkboards?) and my muscles would tense throughout my body and more than an hour of easing into relaxation would fly out the window, just like that.

I’m better now, but it’s not because I care any less about the grammar.  It’s still fingernails to me.  I’ve just learned not to let the painful distraction move me from my centered calm so quickly.  Thank you my teachers, for helping me learn this gift of yoga.

And now here’s my little gift back to you.  My teaching in gratitude for all you’ve given me.  A little loving reminder of some things you may have learned in 7th grade and then forgotten. I will lay my mat on the floor so that I can lie on it. Yesterday I lay on the mat and today I am going to lie on it again. When you want me to lie on it, please ask me to lie down.

That’s all.  Thank you.


  1. This made me laugh my head off, because my beloved *writing* teacher makes this error all over his Facebook comments (as you may possibly have noticed.) I had to summon all my restraint not to say anything about it.

    Comment by PJ — 04/27/2010 @ 5:46 pm | Reply

  2. The curse (and blessing?)of paying attention in English class. I see bad grammar on billboards and expensive magazine ads and wonder where their editors are, it’s painful. Good job turning it to a spiritual practice.

    Comment by Tayria Ward — 04/27/2010 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  3. Oh, how it warms my heart to hear that you are disturbed by the lay-lie problem. It drives me up the wall to hear these verbs misused–especially by people who should know better.

    Comment by jane collins — 04/27/2010 @ 7:36 pm | Reply

  4. The confusion of “lay” and “lie” is my biggest pet peeve. It is indeed like fingernails on a blackboard to me as well. I hear it on television, I even read it in the newspaper. Eventually there will no longer be a differene denoted in the dictionary if this keeps up. I can’t stand it!

    Comment by mauigirl — 04/27/2010 @ 7:40 pm | Reply

  5. Thank you, thank you! We need even more than yoga! There may be a movement afoot. See my poem on” Lie, lay, lain, laid, lied” on my blog under “Poems” and also the latest issue of Fresh, a new literary magazine for WNC available free at libraries and bookstores. Once we get lay-lle done, we can move on to “between you and I.” The eschaton is near…
    Bill Everett

    Comment by William Everett — 04/27/2010 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

  6. Jane Collins—I am a professional writer/editor, and lie/lay is my Waterloo. No matter how many times I study the difference, my brain simply does not “hear” it. Confusing the two reflects neither willful ignorance nor laziness on my part. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it feels more like a very specific learning disability. When you’ve studied something over and over, and it will NOT stick in your brain, what do you do?

    I’ve just learned to avoid the issue and rewrite anything that requires lie/lay. That way, I don’t cause anyone–including myself–emotional distress.

    But I will dare to raise the question: If nearly everyone uses lie/lay incorrectly, maybe it’s time to revamp the rules?

    Or is feeling superior to the great unwashed just too much fun? 😉

    Comment by Doxy — 04/28/2010 @ 1:44 am | Reply

  7. Doxy the Grammar Nazi wants to change the rules??!! Ack! It’s the apocalypse!
    Thank you to those of you who share my pet peeve.
    Welcome, Maui Girl, nice to meet you.
    And Mom, the 7th grade reference was for you.

    Comment by ljcollins — 04/28/2010 @ 7:09 am | Reply

    • I just realized I got snarky with your mother. Ack!

      I’m sorry, Mrs. Collins. I just got riled by the notion that “people who should know better” misuse lie/lay because they can’t be bothered to get it right. I *really* try, and I’ve even got a “natural ear” for grammar–but nobody’s perfect.


      Comment by Doxy — 04/28/2010 @ 7:52 am | Reply

  8. Doxy, here’s an idea. Tell Gaspar the Wonder Dog over and over, “Lie down! Lie down!”

    Comment by ljcollins — 04/28/2010 @ 7:11 am | Reply

  9. I could do that. But life has been complicated (in more ways than one) by the fact that my children now have chickens at their dad’s house. Now I’m TOTALLY confused….

    Comment by Doxy — 04/28/2010 @ 7:35 am | Reply

  10. Chickens lay eggs. If they didn’t sit on the eggs, they might lie on them. Get it? I lay down my yoga mat. And then I lie on it.

    Comment by ljcollins — 04/28/2010 @ 7:40 am | Reply

  11. That was supposed to be Jaspar, of course. Where’s my editor??

    Comment by ljcollins — 04/28/2010 @ 7:45 am | Reply

    • Well…it’s actually “Jasper.” But since he can’t spell, I doubt he thought it sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard…

      Comment by Doxy — 04/28/2010 @ 7:49 am | Reply

  12. Just listened to your Charlie Brown teacher. Thank you for my best laugh yet today.

    Comment by ljcollins — 04/28/2010 @ 9:37 am | Reply

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