Beyond Asana Blog
My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.
A few weeks ago, as I sat on my couch reading about the immense scale of the devastation in Turkey and Syria, at one point it almost became too much. My chest constricted and my jaw tightened. I sensed myself viscerally wanting to pull my attention away from looking at the photos and reading the accounts of the unfathomable loss and horrific tragedies unfolding there. It felt as if a dark, heavy cloud of sadness was sitting in my chest.
I didn’t want to turn away, though. I wanted to stay with the news and bear witness to the suffering unfolding for my fellow humans.
I turned to my breath. I imagined that with each inhalation I was becoming fully conscious of the pain and...
I recently had the great pleasure of sitting down with Buddhist teacher and Mindfulness Yoga pioneer Frank Jude Boccio for a rich conversation about the intersection of Buddhist and Yogic thought.
He shared with me an experience from early in his yoga practice that I think many of us can relate to. When he began taking yoga classes back in the mid-1970’s (which, coincidentally, were at The World Yoga Center, the very same studio where I got started in yoga about 20 years later!), he would leave the studio feeling fantastic.
The peace of mind he experienced at the end of class didn’t last, though, not even for the length of his subway ride...
The other day at the gym, as I was cooling down after my workout, I glanced over at these posters hanging on the wall. It struck me, again, how many of the stretches are similar - in some cases identical - to positions that I practice and teach as yoga.
It got me thinking, as I've done many times over the years, about the difference between stretching and yoga. What distinguishes yoga from positions practiced solely as physical exercises?
I think it’s more than attention to breath and mindful awareness.
Physical positions become yoga when they’re informed by an understanding of the human being as an integrated whole as...
Alignment is a word we hear often in the yoga world. It’s a juicy topic. But it is also a topic that can easily be confusing and misunderstood. This is because alignment in yoga can refer to many related, yet different concepts. So, it has become one of these big, vague terms when it comes to how we instruct and practice asana.
Many of the discussions about alignment in yoga I’ve heard seem to focus only on alignment as it relates to functional movement and biomechanics. Don’t get me wrong, those are essential aspects of alignment. Yet, what’s missing for me in these conversations is any mention of what is beyond our physicality, as if...
I’ve always considered the foundation of a pose - the part of the body that’s in contact with the floor - to be significant in more ways than one.
As the first outward expression of a pose, it’s an opportunity to refresh the presence and meaning we wish to bring to our practice.
Yoga teachers often compare the foundation of a pose to that of a building: both are the underlying base upon which a structure is constructed.
Like in a building, the foundation of a pose needs to be balanced and steady to provide the optimal support to everything above it.
For example, the way you place your hands in Downward-facing Dog Pose will impact the arms, shoulders, neck, and upper...
May I not be held back by what I think I know.
This was a little prayer I used to recite at the beginning of my practice. It was my way of stepping into a beginner’s mind.
Shoshin, or beginner’s mind, is a concept from the Zen Buddhist tradition that refers to an attitude of openness and a lack of preconceptions. In the yoga tradition, humility, eagerness, and patience are some of the many yogic virtues that are fostered when we approach a subject as if we were beginners.
Beginner’s mind is important in yoga because it engages our curiosity, clears the decks of our expectations, and brings us into the present to experience ourselves and our practice as new....
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man
- Heraclitus, Greek philosopher
I doubt Heraclitus ever had to deal with the problem of getting bored in yoga, but he certainly had some brilliant insight into how to keep a practice fresh and interesting.
On the one hand, the postures we practice might seem to be the same. The forms we regularly practice become familiar to us over time. This repetition and familiarity are helpful because it allows us to build a relationship with them. Like a good friend, we can rely on our practice to be there to support us.
On the other hand, no matter how many thousands of...
My intention for my practice this year is to show up. To carve out space, just one evening a week, for myself and my practice. To make space in the mornings, even if it's just a few minutes, to move my body and align with forces greater than myself.
I love this student’s intention because it reflects the importance of the unfancy, unglamorous effort of showing up regularly in one’s practice.
Making daily, sometimes small, deposits into the bank account of your well-being adds up over time to keep you feeling good and, hopefully, able to do everything you need, want, and love to do in the rest of your life.
It's a great example of abhyasa, the foundational...
It’s that time of year when my holiday cookie baking - usually a weekend project - spills out into the weeknights. It’s a sure sign that the holidays are fast approaching.
For some of us this means parties and reunions with loved ones. For others, it’s a solitary celebration, or a time for being with the grief, loss, or uncertainty we might be moving through.
Whatever it is for you this year, I think one of the most important ways yoga serves us - especially at this time - is by expanding our capacity to live it fully.
The practices and perspectives of yoga help us to be present with the full spectrum of our experience so we can show up for ourselves...
Two words that evoke the best of the holiday spirit. How can yoga bring a new dimension to the ways we might usually think about them? Let’s take a look:
The English word “comfort” can be translated into a number of different Sanskrit words. But one that you might be familiar with is sukha, which means ease, comfort, or happiness. In the Yoga Sutras it refers to one of the qualities of a well-established meditation posture and, by extension your experience of physical ease and comfort in any posture at all.
You can also think about sukha in deeper sense of how your yoga practice can be a source comfort in your life. You can approach your practice as a time to...