Beyond Asana Blog
My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.
If you stick with yoga long enough, and perhaps not even very long, it’s certain you’ll be dealing with the question of what to practice when you get injured or sick. Do you forge ahead and get to class even when your sciatica is flaring up? Do you stop practicing completely when your physio tells you you have a torn meniscus? How do you adapt your practice after you injure your shoulder playing tennis? How do you know what’s right?
It takes sensitivity and awareness to respond to changes in your physical condition and adapt practice appropriately. Therefore, working with an injury or illness can actually be a turning point in your yoga if you approach it as an...
Here are some ways I’ve found to make consistent and satisfying home practice really happen:
- Schedule it. Put it in your agenda(s) and prioritize it as an important appointment with yourself.
- Have a reliable way to remind yourself (post-it notes, phone alerts and texts to yourself are all good!).
- Think about what you’re going to practice the night before.
- Seek out input from a teacher you trust for sequences and guidance on what will serve you best.
- Commit to a minimum amount of practice times weekly that you will not go below and hold yourself to it.
- Have props visible.
- Have a practice buddy.
- Practice as early in the day as you can. ...
What is independent practice and is it really necessary?
I learned how to downhill ski in my early 20’s. I avoided it until then because I have a big fear of heights. But there I was, visiting a friend who was working in one of the most beautiful resort towns in the Swiss Alps and decided to go for it. I signed up for a one-week of Swiss ski school. Everyday, our group would follow our instructor down the mountain like little ducklings following their mother. I learned all the basics of managing the various types of ski lifts (one of my biggest fears), and navigating the beginner slopes, stopping, slowing down, making turns. I was in good hands and supported every step of the...
The ancient chambered nautilus shell is a potent symbol for our evolution and growth as yogis. As the animal grows, it builds larger and larger chambers for itself to live in. It seals off the smaller ones, which are then filled with gasses that allow it to stay buoyant as it moves through the ocean waters.
The spiral itself is a universal symbol of movement, energy, and expansion that radiates from the center out. In the Tibetan tradition it symbolizes the origin of the universe. In the Yoga tradition Kundalini Shakti, the power of spiritual evolution, is described as a serpent power that sits tightly coiled at the base of the spine, spiraling upward when awakened within a seeker.
The nautilus shell is a symbol of proportional perfection. It is a logarithmic spiral, a pattern found throughout nature in the form of spiral galaxies, plants and flowers, animal horns, and even the flight patterns of some birds. There is a sense of perfection, symmetry and order to spirals in nature like the nautilus shell. They remind us of a mysterious yet somehow very real harmony underlying the outer, sometimes chaotic dance of our lives. The beauty and perfection we observe in nature helps us remember the subtle, mystical world that lies just beneath the surface of our ordinary, usual awareness.
Yoga echoes this idea that there is a transcendent, unchanging reality that is full,...
“Maman, everything is covered in snow!” my daughter said as she woke me up Monday morning. Seeing the first snow is always an exciting time in our house. Looking at our backyard with her I recalled the coziness, comfort and peace I usually feel in that moment. Not so this year. As in so many other ways, life feels different, uncomfortable, and profoundly unsettled since the US election results. I was very much aware of an underlying sense of sadness, fear and concern that I, like many, have been carrying around for months, and which has only deepened over the past several weeks. It’s a new reality, this lurking feeling that the near future is NOT warm...
Thanks to everyone who responded to my yoga practice survey (and there’s still time to take it if you have not already). Here is one of the questions I received:
I continue to practice a variety of styles of yoga - mostly when I go to classes. I realize I can become more expert in one style if I practiced one style. However, what are your thoughts about sticking to one style of practice regarding personal and spiritual growth?
The phrase regarding personal and spiritual growth guides my answer to this question. The decision to stick with one style of yoga or not depends, I think, on your intention for your practice.
If you do yoga to feel good in...
Like cooking a hearty soup in autumn, working your feet is, of course, grounding. And, you'll likely feel a happy resonance of waking up your feet right up into your hips and pelvis. This week, I'm sharing a few favourite Vajrasana variations for enlivening up your feet and ankles. Try this 8-minute sequence at the beginning of a practice and see how it changes your standing poses, and your inversions too.
Be forewarned that these fall into the somewhat-intense-in-a-delicious-way category, if you get my drift. And, as usual, always modify and adjust as appropriate for you.
See this post from last year for a primer on working your feet in standing postures....
We have several new mothers in my current teacher mentoring program. For these women, like many of us, finding even 30 minutes for uninterrupted practice is a challenge.
How do we make yoga happen given the reality of our lives?
One way is to expand our ideas of what practice looks like. While we continue to commit to carving out time for regular, formal practice as best we can, we can also remember that yoga is adaptable, and it can and should be used to work for us. It's empowering and enriching to find ways to experience the essence of the practices throughout our day. Here are just a few ideas:
BODY: A few minutes of stretching can bring your focus back to your sitting or...
One of the biggest misconceptions about being a yoga teacher is that all we do is teach yoga. Any yoga teacher will tell you that there is a lot for us to do outside of class including e-mail correspondence, class and workshop planning, and schedule organizing. Like many, much of our day might be spent sitting at a desk in front of a computer.
This is particularly true once mid-September rolls around. Life and work tends to moves into a whole different gear. The relaxed, loose rhythm of the summer gives way to school schedules and more structure to our days. While I’m always a bit wistful about the end of summer, there is also something exciting about the opportunity that a...