Beyond Asana Blog
My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.
In the second part of our interview, Bill offers guidance on how to approach the study of yoga philosophy and concrete suggestions about choosing what to study. And, he shares his reflections on how yogic wisdom can offer us a valuable perspective on understanding and responding to the tragic events of our times.
Is there something that Westerners approaching yoga philosophy often misunderstand about it?
I might mention two general misunderstandings. One is that students may feel that the philosophy will be too hard to understand and may not be relevant to their practice. Yes, traditional yoga philosophy draws from a long and respected history of inquiry and commentary by sages in the...
Bill Mahony is known in yoga communities around the world for his insightful, compassionate and engaging approach to the study of yoga philosophy. In his workshops, seminars and retreats, Bill integrates a deep knowledge of yoga philosophy with insights refined over nearly five decades of his own yogic practice.
Currently a professor of Religion at Davidson College in the United States, Bill holds academic degrees from Williams College, Yale University and the University of Chicago. His most recent book, Exquisite Love: Reflections on the Spiritual Life based on Nārada’s Bhakti Sūtra consists of Bill’s extended commentaries on a 10th century Sanskrit text...
As we head into the new year, it is worth remembering that yoga gives us a way to start fresh not only once every 365 days but every single day. Like the sunrise, each time we enter into the practices we have the chance to begin again.
Moving with awareness, breathing fully, turning our attention inside we can experience the present moment as if for the first time.
Whether you are feeling strong in your body today or somewhat wrecked, close to your heart or far away, the starting point in yoga is always right where you are.
Though we usually think of time as moving in a linear progression, we can also see it as circular. The cycles of day and night, the seasons and years all circle back to a point of completion before beginning again.
In the cycle of the seasons, the Winter Solstice is such a moment of culmination, when darkness reaches its zenith, after which the days turn toward increasing light. Its the turning point, the transition, the pause in swing of the pendulum.
These days leading up to the Winter Solstice are the perfect time to take stock of where we have arrived at as the previous cycle moves toward completion and ponder what we would like to create in the next.
Not only does yoga practice...
The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle.
Practice reveals this source place, this inner light. It glows with quiet joy, strength and, most essentially, love. We can allow it to light our way through times of darkness, struggle and challenge.
Like candles on the menorah, may the promise of the season...
“Yoga is Skill in Action”
The Bhagavad Gita
Skill: the ability to do something well; expertise, adeptness, adroitness, prowess, mastery, competence, capability, aptitude, artistry, virtuosity, talent
Among all the many skills we develop as yoga teachers, the skill of being a student is perhaps the most important. It’s the meta-skill that overarches all the others.
Unlike most other subjects, being a student of yoga is not only about the knowledge we gain or the skills we sharpen. It’s about walking a path that takes us to the higher realms of wisdom and freedom. It’s a continual unfolding of the truth inside.
For the teacher who approaches yoga as a...
The traditional 3 paths of yoga outlined in the Bhagavad Gita provide a useful framework for deconstructing the work of the hatha yoga teacher:
Karma Yoga, The Path of Action
The disciplines we practice and teach. Asana, pranayama and the actions we perform, study, and refine within these practices.
The actions we use to teach: concrete skills including planning and preparation, the cues we give, the adjustments we make, the attention with which we observe our students.
Jnana Yoga, The Path of Knowledge
The understanding that informs these practices, including the teachings of our tradition.
The larger context we hold for the practice that evolves out of a...
Is there anything more powerful than remembering death to clarify what is most important in your life?
In the Buddhist tradition, remembering your death is a daily practice. Not in a morbid way, but as a reminder of preciousness of this fleeting, transient existence of ours. The perspective it brings allows for a healthy detachment from the unfolding dramas of daily life.
Our yoga practice should do us the same service. Hopefully, our practice environment (both inner and outer) gives us the space to remember again and again what we hold most dear and essential.
Remembering that each day is an opportunity to take hold of, to live fully and to learn from, practice supports us to...
Feet are amazing pieces of architecture. Each foot has:
- 26 bones (One-quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet)
- 33 joints
- more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments
The first “spiritual” book I ever read was Peace is Every Step by the Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. This small book about mindfulness opened up a world of possibility for me, one where happiness and contentment could be cultivated from within.
Recalling it now, more than 20 years later, I am reminded of the precious beginnings of my search, and the longing sparked an inquiry myself and what this life was all about anyway.
Remembering back to the early teachings that touched us and turned our attention toward living a more consicous life are landmarks to be honoured. They help us to acknowledge the yearning that ignited our search and that is...