Beyond Asana Blog

Destination: Wholeness

Jun 16, 2021


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...

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In Praise of Ordinary

Jun 10, 2021

 

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...

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From Doing Yoga to Being Yoga

Jun 02, 2021

 

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...

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Moon Lessons

May 26, 2021

 

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,...

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Available for Beauty

May 20, 2021

 

You know those three "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" monkeys? I have an untraditional interpretation for them.

Last night, I went out for a walk at dusk. It was a gorgeous night. The colours of the sunset were spectacular, the light was magical, the birds were singing, the air was fragrant. And yet, I repeatedly caught myself wrapped up in my own mind, completely oblivious to the beauty happening all around me. Not hearing, not seeing, not feeling any of it. What a shame.

Again and again, I had to bring myself out of my thoughts and into the moment. And that was just the first step.

It's one thing to witness and acknowledge a beautiful sky. It's another to really let it in, savor it, and be moved by it.

Being available for beauty is a practice. Wonder takes effort. It doesn't happen automatically.

Today, I invite you to avail yourself of the beauty on offer to you. Practice wonder.

 

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How do you know it’s working?

May 12, 2021


Even if we're yoga teachers, or seasoned students with years of practice under our belts, articulating the benefits of practice might not be something we’re accustomed to doing.

How is yoga serving you in your life right now?

What are the specific practices that you find most useful? Why?

When I completed my book I started speaking to small groups about how to deepen, expand, and integrate the benefits of yoga. I focused on questions like these so people could hone in on the exact ways yoga was serving them in their lives.

Very practical answers often came up, such as:

"A few minutes of  Alternate Nostril Breathing helps me to feel grounded and not nervous before a presentation at work."

"Putting my legs up the wall helps me calm down at the end of a stressful day."

"My daily 20-minute meditation is the cornerstone of my emotional well-being."

It's easy to get so caught up in the outer forms that yoga takes – both in our own communities and in the...

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Friendly Discipline

May 05, 2021

 

Among the virtues, discipline has always played a starring role in the life of a yogi. It can also be the most misunderstood.
 
During these strange times where some of us are moving into a more active life while others are still very much in everything-at-home mode, I think there’s a particular kind of discipline needed to maintain equilibrium. A discipline that’s adaptable, a shiftable structure that can both meet our needs and keep us focused.
 
As someone who has worked at home for years, I can tell you that the single most important thing I do to stay motivated is to write out a schedule for my day every morning that lists the things I want to accomplish. This self-imposed framework keeps me focused and provides a structure that is essential to doing my work successfully.
  
The second most important thing I do is to allow myself the freedom to pivot, adapt, and shift as needed.
 
I imagine a stately river flowing. The banks of the river...

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Stress & Ease

Apr 28, 2021

 

In their own ways, stress and ease are both necessary for our well being.  
 
Some degree of tension is beneficial and needed. The right kinds and amounts of stress bolster your immune system, make your mind sharper, and keep your bones, joints, and muscles strong and resilient.
 
As we know, however, too much stress becomes a compressive, constrictive, and counterproductive force on these very same levels.
 
Ease, on the other hand, is also important. In the right doses, it helps you feel in the flow, calm, measured, and relaxed.
 
Too much, though, and we become lazy, complacent, and maybe even bored.

For those of us who seek to live a productive and purposeful life, the balance of stress and ease is a moving target.

Part of assessing this balance lies in knowing how much stress is beneficial for you to stay motivated without life feeling difficult?

And, how much ease is needed to feel comfortable and relaxed without feeling...

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The April Snowstorm

Apr 22, 2021

 

Spiritual awakening is the difficult process whereby the increasing realisation that everything is as wrong as it can be flips suddenly into the realisation that everything is as right is it can be. Or better, everything is as it can be.      

Alan Watts



Yep, it's white again here. The fireplace is back on. My feed is filled with virtual sighs and complaints from my fellow Quebecers.

This is nothing new for us, though. In fact, it's to be expected. It almost always snows in Quebec in April. 

The weather is something so obviously beyond our capacity to influence, why even give it a second thought? And, yet, we (and I include myself here) do.

Why do we spend time and energy wishing it would be different when we know it's futile?

I could give you a long and analytical answer, but it wouldn't necessarily changes things. It certainly wouldn't make Spring magically reappear.

Instead, I'd like to offer an alternative approach:

Why not respond to...

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Learning to Listen

Apr 15, 2021

 

When I attended the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India in August 2000, most of the classes were taught by Geeta and Prashant Iyengar.

BKS Iyengar was also there most days, doing his own practice in the back of the room. In almost every class he would step in and teach for a little while.

One day, while he was instructing Triangle pose, he yelled across the room an instruction that was meant for me. It was about adjusting my left foot, but I didn’t catch it. He then came over, stood on my mat and said to me,

“You want to learn yoga, but you don’t even know how to listen!”

And so began my ongoing inquiry into the relationship between listening, learning, and yoga. 

Listening to others means paying attention, giving up your agenda, being available to receive another’s words. True listening is a generous act. We give the other person the gift of our presence.

Turned inward, listening requires that you...

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