Beyond Asana Blog

My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.

The Yoga of Listening, Part 1 – Listening to Others Jun 29, 2022

 

It all started more than 20 years ago, when B.K.S. Iyengar was instructing Triangle pose. He stood on my mat and roared, “You want to learn yoga, but you don’t even know how to listen!”  

This began an ongoing inquiry into the nature and importance of listening in yoga and asking questions like: What does it really mean to listen? How do you do it? And what does listening have to do with learning yoga?

(If you’re interested in the story behind how I got to be on the receiving end of B.K.S. Iyengar’s ire, one of my most treasured and thrilling experiences in yoga - read this post. The photo above was taken during a celebration at the Ramamani...

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6 Tips for Maintaining a Balanced Yoga Practice Jun 23, 2022

 

These days I find my way to the mat but have no idea what to practice. I used to let my body or mood guide me, but my tendency is to return to the poses I love the most, and variety is missing from my practice… Lately, I find myself stepping onto the mat, turning inward for guidance and..... crickets.... Any suggestions on creating a balanced home practice when you are feeling uninspired, or not clear on what you need? 

I love this question I recently received from a long-time student. For one thing, it illustrates to me that this person has already taken the first crucial step toward a balanced yoga practice—to start thinking about it!

It also touches on one...

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Getting Comfortable with Paradox Jun 15, 2022

 

In my recent “Body is the Vessel” workshop, I got to revisit the fascinating paradox at the heart of yogic practice - the notion that we are embodied spirits. 
 
We have a finite life, a body, an individual identity with its personality and preferences. At the very same time, the tradition teaches, we also have a mystical, sublime, and ultimately infinite essence. 

Yogic wisdom, therefore, is also always paradoxical because it reflects this dual perspective on human existence. Like the swing of a pendulum, yoga invites us to dance with the polarities of body and spirit, fleeting and eternal, everchanging and constant.

As long as we are alive, the essential...

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Why I Love Triangle Pose Jun 08, 2022

 

Maybe it’s the strength it builds in the legs, or the familiarity of the form, or the sturdiness of the shape itself - or perhaps it’s all of those things - that make Trikonasana a pose I come back to time and again.  
 
Entering Triangle pose is like setting out for a hike on a familiar trail. I know the terrain well. I also know my experience will be different every time, because I’m never the same. I’ve probably practiced this pose more than a thousand times. Each time is unique if I’m paying attention.   
 
Stepping my feet apart, I stand firmly in the triangle formed by my legs and the earth as I prepare. I...

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No Mat Required - Part 2 Jun 01, 2022

 

Every Spring for several years now, one of the trees in our front yard becomes home to a family of Turtle Doves.
 
Every morning, without fail these days, I watch from the window as the adult birds fly down from the tree to find food for their hatchlings, and then fly back up to deliver it to them. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth they go, so resolutely fulfilling their responsibility as parents to feed and nurture their babies.
 
To me, this is a great lesson about the power of dharma.
 
Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means sacred duty or righteous action. It is the principle that each of us, and everything in nature, has specific and...

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No Mat Required May 26, 2022

 

I recently got a message from a new mother asking for advice about doing yoga with her baby and how to make brief and often interrupted practice sessions spiritually meaningful and physically useful.
 
Having been there myself, I have some tips that are specific to her situation. You can read those on the web version of this post if you’re interested. 
 
But there’s a broader response to her question that I think is important and applicable for all practitioners, because as we continue down the road of yoga, there will undoubtedly be times when - for whatever reason - we aren’t able to do our usual practices. 
 
What...

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The Unstoppable Impulse to Be May 19, 2022

 

Have you heard about Great Pacific Patch - that enormous “island” of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean?
 
As sad and alarming as it may be, there is also something amazing about it. It is teaming with life. Scientists recently found that there were huge concentrations of organisms living amongst the plastic debris. Some hypothesize that there are as many of these organisms living there as there are pieces of garbage.
 
I thought about this as I walked through our neighborhood a few days ago. For all of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s that singularly vibrant time of year when nature is working overtime as the tender green shoots...

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Why I love Reclined Hero’s Pose May 11, 2022

 

I know Supta Virasana may not be everyone’s idea of a heroic pose, but it is to me. Over the years, practicing it has become like spending time with a dear, old friend - someone I trust enough to be fully vulnerable and open.
 
The process begins the moment my props are set up. Getting into Supta Virasana can’t be rushed. I kneel on the mat to adjust my shins, ankles, and feet, and carefully sit back between my heels.
 
With my pelvis heavy and well-grounded, I lie back gingerly, staying quiet and attentive to place myself well. There’s a lot to consider. I’m mindful to lengthen, not shorten, my lower back; to keep my thighbones down, rather...

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Mt. Awareness May 04, 2022

 

You climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other.
---Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching
 
Isn’t this a wonderful image to describe the vantage point we gain in yoga?
 
We ascend to a more expansive vista within our minds. There, we can observe ourselves and the contours of our lives with the freedom afforded by a broader vision and a healthy bit of detachment. 
 
Meditation isn’t necessarily about quieting your mind; it’s about developing a new relationship with your mind. That’s what the view from the mountaintop is, a perspective that’s bigger than what our minds...

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Being and Becoming Apr 27, 2022

 

Some teachers will tell you that yoga is not a path toward a goal, but that it is simply about being present to what is. 
 
I partially agree with this. Certainly, yoga is a way of being with ourselves, a practice of inner attention, a way of seeing and responding to ‘what is’ with a stance of compassion and unconditional self-acceptance. But it’s not only that. 
 
Yoga is also a process of becoming. It is a path we travel. Yoga sets us on a clear trajectory of inner evolution that leads to greater freedom, deeper purpose, and expanded consciousness in every part of our lives.

Yoga has always had a goal. And that goal is...

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