Beyond Asana Blog
My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.
I spent a good part of the weekend listening to birds, something that never fails to uplift and encourage me. (I realize that for non-birdwatching folks, few things are more boring than reading a list of birds, but for the record, I identified five new ones this weekend, including a Bobolink, a Downy Woodpecker, and a Kildeer!)
I love the intricacy of their songs and calls. It’s as if each note carries a resolute optimism, persisting with unwavering determination. Yet, beneath it all lies the most profound revelation of all— the awareness of the energy of life, unhindered and effortless, coursing through their beings.
And, of course, it’s...
I recently had the privilege of spending a few days at a serene Quaker retreat center, which is approaching its centenary. While not my personal tradition, I found myself thoroughly nurtured by my time there.
Every aspect of the center - the grounds and facilities, as well as the kind and helpful volunteers - helps to foster an atmosphere conducive to inward reflection and spiritual learning.
During a reflective moment, nestled in a cozy corner of the Main House, my gaze settled upon the weathered wooden floor of the room. The floor was probably part of the original structure built in the 1930s. It was clearly well-maintained and cared for, yet it bore the...
I have a well-meaning acquaintance, you might know the type, who considers herself quite the yoga expert, yet can never seem to motivate herself to actually practice it. Recently, she was trying to convince me that box breathing was superior to lengthening the exhalation for stress relief. Mind you, she had barely dabbled in either technique.
As I often remind my students, the teachings of yoga are not just meant to be intellectual concepts, they’re intended to be put into practice. Yoga is a discipline that requires active exploration. The knowledge we gain from yoga is meant to inform, elevate, and refine our actions.
In fact, the Sanskrit term for knowledge in...
During a visit to my mother's house years ago, I left a yoga philosophy book lying around in the kitchen. When I returned a few hours later, she looked at me wistfully and said, “I was looking through your book. It must be so nice to believe what you believe.”
What an intriguing statement, don’t you think?
It got me reflecting about the nature of belief in yoga and the source of our faith in the practices.
In Sanskrit, faith is known as shraddha. It's meant to be based on our experience, born out by practice, and reinforced by self-reflection.
For example, if someone tells me that Half Downward-facing...
If we’re connected on social media, you might have seen this quote that I posted in honor of Earth Day. There’s a backstory to it that I wanted to share with you because it holds an important lesson:
I first read it in 1992 at the World Yoga Center, the studio where I was introduced to yoga and took my first teacher training. It was hanging on wall in the changing room. I can still remember the feeling of exhilaration, as if my whole being said “Yes!" Although I knew nothing about yoga philosophy, the words felt true on a deep, instinctual level. Reading them sparked something inside me.
Little could my 23 year-old self have imagined that in...
What more can we accomplish now than the survival of the soul. Harm and decay are not more present than before, perhaps, only more apparent, more visible and measurable….So much in collapse, so much seeking new ways out. Room for what new can happen.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter excerpt from 1914
What strikes me about Rilke’s prophetic words are the phrases the survival of the soul and room for what new can happen, and their resonance with the transformative power of yoga.
The soul is often referred to in yoga as the Self, the atman, or the Heart. It’s envisioned as eternal, unchanging, and indestructible essence within...
If you're navigating through life's changes and grappling with finding a clear path forward these days, know that you're in good company. So many people I know are feeling adrift right now as they are confronted by the uncertainty that we all face on an individual, collective, and planetary scale.
I read an article in The Atlantic magazine a few days ago called Sick all the Time. This pretty much captures what our household has felt like over the past 6 months, with someone battling one bug or another nearly constantly. And while, thankfully, all our illnesses have turned out to be mild and transient, it’s still no fun.
I recently wrote about the cycle of creation according to Nondual Tantric philosophy, which includes the acts of creation, maintenance, and dissolution.
These are considered to be three of the five functions of consciousness, known as Shiva in this tradition. Just as Shiva is said to perform these functions on the universal level,...
I’ve heard from students many times over the years that they appreciate that I’m a ‘real’ person with a ‘real’ body. While I’m never quite sure who I’m being compared to when they say this, I appreciate the sentiment, because I do endeavor to be someone who shares yoga from my lived experience.
Everything dies, but that’s kind of good. It makes for a very rich world. All the richness, all that fecundity, all that beautiful miracle of life, it happens because we live in cycles, not perpetuity.
- adrienne maree brown, writer, activist, and author
In our course on Nondual Tantra, one of the concepts we're exploring is the creative cycle. This tradition envisions an absolute consciousness - unbounded in its freedom and power - as the source from which everything comes into being, hangs around for a while, and then subsides. It describes this source power as giving rise to the dynamics of both our inner and outer worlds in a perpetual cycle of creation, maintenance, and...