Beyond Asana Blog

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

How to Fall in Love with Yoga Mar 16, 2022

 

When I tell new students that I have a love/hate relationship with some of the poses I regularly practice and teach, they often breathe a sigh of relief. After all, the challenge of learning how to put your body into new and unusual shapes isn’t necessarily pleasant, so it’s comforting to know that even someone who has been doing yoga regularly for 30 years doesn’t always enjoy it.
 
For example, I don’t like holding Warrior 2 for 1 minute. I still do it sometimes though, because I know that my achy hip will feel better afterward, that my mind will be sharper when I get back to work, and that my energy will be more vibrant for the rest of...

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The Inner Posture Mar 09, 2022

 

One of the first things I teach students is that the term yoga refers both to a state and to the practices that lead you toward that state.

The idea that the journey is the destination might sound like a new-age platitude, but it’s there right from the beginning of the tradition.

I want people who are new to yoga to understand that yoga isn’t some lofty goal that they'll achieve one day when they finally nail a handstand. 

It’s something that you practice from the minute you roll out the mat out to the final bow of your head at the end of a session.

Yoga includes, and perhaps is characterized by, the mindset that’s cultivated...

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Flexing the Self-Awareness Muscle Mar 02, 2022

 

How does your yoga practice change the way you show up for life? How you work? The way you are with your family? Is yoga helping you to become more of who you want to be in the world?

These are questions that have no right or wrong answer, in fact, at the beginning, no answers at all might arise. That’s okay, because just asking the question sets the stage for the beginning of self-reflective awareness.

The act of asking questions send a signal to the brain to self-reflect and starts to build the muscle of inner discovery. It’s the kind of inquiry that allows you to bridge your yoga practice and your life. This is the doorway into this multi-dimensional way of knowing...

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Smile Power Feb 23, 2022

 

I remember once being instructed by a meditation teacher to “Think with a smile.” I’ve always loved that instruction, and even though I admit I am not always able to do that, it’s an image that has stayed with me as a reminder that the way I experience life depends— sometimes quite dramatically—on the inner attitude I bring to situations.

It’s helpful when I can think with a smile because even though the outer situation doesn’t necessarily change, it shifts the way I relate to it and generally makes things better and not worse. 

Have you ever noticed the slight smile often depicted on the faces of the gods and goddesses of...

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The Shift of a Gift Feb 16, 2022

 

I have a lot of warm socks. But this pair is different from all the others in my drawer because it was knitted for me as a gift from a student.
 
Isn’t it true that when you receive something as a gift you have a different relationship with it than a similar item that you’ve paid for? 
 
In her insightful and heartening book, Braiding Sweetgrass, indigenous scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about her experience of picking wild strawberries from the field as a young girl and considering them gifts from nature. She recalls how different and odd it felt when she saw the same type of strawberries for sale at the market. 
 
Although yoga...

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How (and Why) to Cultivate Compassion When You’re Not Feelin' it Feb 09, 2022

 

Last week I shared the experience of radical compassion arising unbidden. Several readers wrote and told me that they too, have experienced spontaneous feelings of tenderness, warmth, beauty, and love at times. It’s always encouraging, I think, to hear your experiences in yoga, or those that come because of your practice, echoed by fellow seekers.

Perhaps more common than my “compassion bomb” experience, though, are the inner obstacles we all face to viewing the world, ourselves, and others compassionately. The yoga tradition tells us that aversion, which takes the form of judgement, fear, anger, and other divisive feelings, often gets in the way of acknowledging...

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Compassion Bomb Feb 02, 2022

 

Compassion Bomb: A sudden explosion of awareness of and empathy for the suffering of humanity that results in a genuine desire to express goodwill and love.

It happened to me last Monday. I was spending the afternoon at a mall while my phone got repaired. I sat down on a bench to eat my burrito and began one of my favorite mall activities—people watching. As I observed the other shoppers walking by, who were few and far between that day, my first thought was, ‘So, this is who else goes to the mall on a freezing cold Monday afternoon.’

But as I continued to watch everyone, wearing masks as well as their bulkiest and warmest winter gear, I became quiet and started...

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Remembering Thich Nhat Hanh Jan 26, 2022

 

To be beautiful means to be yourself.

You don’t need to be accepted by others.

You need to accept yourself.

 

– Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Like many of you perhaps, I have been contemplating the teachings and impact of Thich Nhat Hanh, the beloved Vietnamese Buddhist Master, since his passing last week.

 His book Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life was the first spiritual book I bought in the early 90s when I was about 21. Shortly after I read it, I went to see him speak at Riverside Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I lived at the time. Riverside Church is so enormous it’s more like a Gothic cathedral than a...

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The Mundane and the Mystical Jan 19, 2022

 

It was four years ago this week that I got the call that my father, who was 84 and had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, had passed away. I got in the car right away and drove to my parents’ home on Long Island.
 
That same night, the rabbi who was to speak at his funeral shared his view about what happens to the soul after death. He likened it to being in a limousine with darkened windows. The person inside the car can see out, but those on the outside can’t see in. The departed soul, he explained, is just on the other side of the window. We can’t see them, but they are so close. This was my experience of my father in the days following his...

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Keep on Rolling Jan 12, 2022

 

The dharmachakra, or wheel of dharma, is one of the most ancient symbols in Indian culture and one of the most well-known and important in the Buddhist tradition. Its even an emoji .
 
Dharma comes from the Sanskrit root dhr, meaning “that which upholds.” It’s often translated as right action or sacred duty.
 
Chakra means “wheel”. Here, the term has nothing to do with the energy centers in the subtle body.
 
The oldest known depictions of the dharmachakra are solar symbols that appear frequently on the clay seals of the Indus valley civilization dating back to 2500 BCE. 
 
The...

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