A meditation master once taught:
Hatha Yoga, Schmata* Yoga. Even an elephant can stand on his front legs, but is your inner courtyard filled with the fragrance of your own love?
(*Schmata is the Yiddish word for a rag or old, ragged clothing)
It’s a question I come back to again and again: What makes postural practice more than physical exercise, even when done with mindful awareness, conscious breathing, and good alignment?
And the answer keeps coming back: it’s the context we give it, the intention behind it, and the inner trajectory it moves us in that brings asana into the realm of spiritual practice and part of a larger path of personal growth.
All we do on our mats - the one-pointedness we nurture, the agility we engender, the vitality we increase, and even the more subtle awareness we cultivate – must be placed in service to our own evolution and becoming a stronger force for love and goodness in the world for it to be yoga.
According to Ayurveda, you aren’t what you eat, you’re what you digest.
It’s true with food and it’s also true with yoga.
Like digesting a meal, assimilation in yoga is about extracting the nourishment you receive from your practices. Assimilation allows the imprint and impact of the practices to settle into the fabric of your being - mind, body, and spirit - and become part of you. It's how integration happens.
Among the possibilities for assimilating the effects of your practice are:
- Resting in Savasana or another supported, fully relaxing pose
- Articulating your experiences through writing, drawing, or another creative medium
- Sharing your insights with others
- Reflecting while being in nature
What are your favorite ways to assimilate your yoga?
Much of the conversation about postural alignment in yoga revolves around cues, biomechanics, evidence-based theories of movement, and evolving perceptions of healthy movement patterns that could apply to many different physical disciplines.
But of course, what makes yoga, yoga, is the understanding that the physical body is only one part of who we are. And that’s what’s missing from many of these discussions in my view. When we treat alignment as purely biomechanical, we overlook the fundamental yogic understanding that we are more than just the body.
There are different models of the human being in the yoga tradition. What they all have in common is the understanding that we’re composed of a series of interpenetrating, intercommunicating layers both gross and subtle.
These include our anatomy, physiology, breath, the energetic and elemental forces of the subtle body, the workings of our minds and emotions, not to mention the universal consciousness at...
A few months ago, I was invited by a media outlet to share an excerpt from my book that I felt was particularly fitting for this time. There were several that felt pertinent, but none more so than Chapter 9: Renew Yourself.
After what we’ve lived through over the past year and a half, renewal is so important right now, both for yourself and others. Even as (or maybe because) many parts of the world are starting to open, you might feel understandably confused, challenged, or just plain tired.
It's time to remember what you’ve been learning and hearing in yoga for years, maybe even decades: The only true and lasting source of renewal is found right inside yourself.
It doesn’t need to be through restorative yoga, per se. It doesn’t even need to be through a formal practice. There are so many ways to touch the space of renewal.
Being in nature, cooking, gardening, being with your pets or plants, being in community, being in silence, walking,...
June can be a nostalgia-inducing month for parents because of transitions like the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation.
Turning points like graduations, weddings, and in my case my 14 year-old’s birthday and her first summer job, can also pull me into wistful memories of childhood (hers and mine) at this time of year.
I have mixed feelings about nostalgia.
On the one hand, it’s an attractive place to hang out. It can be comfortable to reminisce about sweet memories, life-defining moments, and experiences that have shaped who we’ve become.
At the same time, nostalgia is inherently problematic because it’s a state of longing for what was and is no longer. It’s defined as "homesickness," a “sentimental yearning for a return to the past.”
It’s a type of memory that can cause us to remain stuck in our limited identity as defined by our childhood, culture, and family.
While yoga beckons us to create ourselves...
Dawn arrives, shining like a lady of light
stirring all creatures to life….
Dawn’s light breaks the shadows.
Her face turned to all things across the wide world,
she rises in splendor, enwrapped in bright clothes.
Shining in golden colors, dressed in rays of light,
she guides forth the day….
-Rig Veda, 7.77.1-1 (translation: Prof. William K. Mahony)
The Vedic poets heralded the dawn as a lady of light. For me, this image evokes the majesty of the sunrise, and metaphorically, the dawning of the inner light of wisdom and understanding.
The nature of sunlight is to reveal what’s been hidden in darkness. Likewise, the awakening of self-knowledge brings awareness and clear vision.
Lately, I’ve heard people dismissing the concept of light as a bypass mechanism, expressing the sentiment that ‘love and light’ are not substitutes for the concrete action needed to address the formidable challenges we face. I can...
I love this painting by my friend, James Anaya Fishman. To me, it expresses the complexity of our human experience and our capacity to embrace the whole spectrum of it.
Integrating all the pieces and parts of myself - the messy and the beautiful, the strong and the vulnerable, the mundane and the sacred - is such a valuable part of what my yoga practice is about.
Yoga gives me tools to address the fullness of who I am, to penetrate the depths of my inner being and to process the outer story of my life. It offers me a place to settle, to process, and to heal.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that every part of myself benefits when held up to the light of yogic wisdom and practice.
The core teaching of all traditions and paths of yoga is that within each human being lives an unchanging essence, a place of abiding presence that is our truest home because the fullness of who we are is welcome there.
Like a welcoming home, when we experience this place within, we know...
You know that feeling of recovering after you’ve been sick, when you wake up and finally feel “normal” again? And you’re just so darn grateful simply to have your energy back and be able to go about your day as usual?
That’s what it feels like in our town this week as restaurants finally open for in-person dining, summer activities are being planned, and my daughter no longer has to wear a mask all day at school.
While I know this isn’t the case for everyone, life in our little corner of the world is starting to feel normal again, which in itself is a cause for celebration.
The joy of gathering with friends, hugging loved ones, and being part of community life all feels pretty extraordinary right now. I hope we can hold onto that sense of appreciation when we all get to the other side of this pandemic.
Being grateful for the ordinary is a great practice because it helps us to recognize that the ordinary is, in...
Have you ever heard something in yoga class that moved you deeply? That resonated with you as true on an intuitive level? Maybe even brought a tear to your eye? For me, that happened when my first teacher said to our class:
“Yoga is a path that takes all of us with it, no part gets left behind.”
These words struck a profound chord within me because it was at that moment that I first understood that yoga could be more than a class I took once or twice a week to exercise my body and reset after a stressful day at work. Hearing those words, I grasped that yoga was a holistic discipline, a set of practices that could address the whole of my being and that held the possibility of growth and expansive, positive shift.
This was back in 1993. I was in my early 20’s at the time, living in Manhattan and working at an office job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my future at the time, but I knew that I was seeking something different than the corporate...
I wrote this week's post under the full moon light. Brilliant and bright, casting shadows of tall trees onto the fields around my house, it was magnificent.
The moon, of course, holds such significance on the path of yoga.
The full moon, purnima in Sanskrit, is a symbol of the fullness of our inner selves. It reminds us of the perfection that lies within each human being, even when it gets obscured or partially hidden from our view.
Isn't it true that the moon is always full even when it's not shining in our own backyard?
But here's the biggest lesson I took from the moon this morning:
The way the moonlight illumines the night sky, as if with the softness of a feather and the gentleness of a whisper, teaches me something important about how I can approach shining a light on my own darkness.
Viewing my shortcomings with honesty, owning up to my mistakes, recognizing where my actions or words have contributed to division or hurt - in other words,...
Our free, online bonus content is designed to complement and enrich your experience of Evolving Your Yoga. Resources like video pose tutorials, downloadable journaling prompts, breathwork, guided visualizations, and more will support your exploration of each of the Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice.