Beyond Asana Blog

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

Au Coeur de L'Afrique Apr 14, 2016

Bags packed and coconut offered, tomorrow I will embark on what will certainly be one of the most meaningful adventures of my life. I am leaving for Africa to launch the World Spine Care Yoga Project. This is an initiative that will bring the healing gifts of yoga to people suffering from back pain in rural villages in Botswana.

I am privileged to be working alongside super-dedicated, hard-working and highly-skilled colleagues Erin Moon of Vancouver and Geoff Outerbridge, WSC’s Clinical Director. We will be presenting yoga as a tool for pain management at the Botswana Spine Care Conference next week in Mahalapye. Then we travel to Shoshong to give a 10-day teacher...

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Like a Flame in a Windless Place: Ekagrata Apr 06, 2016

The attainment of the Samadhi state involves the elimination of all-pointedness [i.e. wandering] of the mind and the rise of one-pointedness [i.e. concentration].

Yoga Sutra 3.11, trans. Edwin Bryant

Under the appearance of thought, there is really an indefinite and disordered flickering, fed by sensations words, and memory. The first duty of the yogin is to think-that is, not to let himself think. This is why Yoga practice begins with ekagrata, which darns the mental stream and thus constitutes a 'psychic mass,' a solid and unified continuum.

Mircea Eliade

When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place.

Bhagavad Gita, 6.19-20

Ekagrata,...

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The Wisdom of Equanimity: Teachings And a Sequence Mar 17, 2016

That devotee who looks upon friend and foe with equal regard,

Who is not buoyed up by praise nor cast down by blame,

Alike in heat and cold, pleasure and pain,

free from selfish attachments,

The same in honor and dishonor,

quiet, ever full, in harmony everywhere,

firm in faith – such a one is dear to me.

 Bhagavad Gita 12.18-19

 

Do thy work in the peace of Yoga and, free from selfish desires, be not moved in success or in failure. Yoga is evenness of mind — a peace that is ever the same.

Bhagavad Gita 2.48

 

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...

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Sculpting The Mind With The Body Mar 10, 2016

We all know that the mind affects body, for example, “You look down in the dumps,” or “He was crestfallen.” Why not, suggests yoga, try the other way round…we are going to try to use asana to sculpt the mind.”

BKS Iyengar, Light on Life, page 11

Using asana to sculpt the mind, a brilliant observation and a powerful understanding that adds infinite depth to our practice.

It’s the idea that not only do asanas have certain inherent qualities that are revealed when we practice them, but that we can actually choose to cultivate what we want to experience more in our selves.

We can choose to sculpt courage in the face of...

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Inside Out Feb 11, 2016

In yoga, we often talk about the practice of living life “from the inside out”. This can mean different things. It might be that we practice living with intention, striving to hold a certain expanded or enlightened perspective as we move through our day. It might mean finding ways to be in touch with our selves and the moment, and bringing that sense of presence to our activities. It can also imply a life lived as a result of consciously made choices or nurturing our ability to bring a chosen inner state to situations in our lives.

In yogic understanding, over-simplified as this statement might be, we recognize that ultimately we may not have so much power over what...

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The Inner Weather Report Jan 25, 2016

My first yoga teacher would sometimes ask us at the start of class:

What’s the inner weather report?

This was (and is) a brilliant question because it accomplished two things:

1. It immediately created a distance from whatever was occupying my mind at that moment and my predominant mood on that day.

For someone new to yoga, the notion that my mind (thoughts, feelings, moods, fantasies and ideas) was somehow distinct from who I actually was seemed foreign and revolutionary. Yet answering this question made it feel natural, even obvious.

2. It allowed me to recognize that like weather patterns, the inner environment is always changing. No one mood lasts forever. Whatever pattern is...

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5 Questions For Bill Mahony, Part 2 Jan 14, 2016

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...

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5 Questions For Bill Mahony, Part 1 Jan 11, 2016

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...

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Renew You Jan 06, 2016

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.

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Standing Still Dec 18, 2015

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...

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