Beyond Asana Blog

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

Why Yoga Philosophy? Sep 07, 2022

 

Over the years, I’ve observed two common misconceptions practitioners have about yoga philosophy that Prof. Bill Mahony pinpointed in a recent conversation:

One is, “it’s not for me.” We might feel that yoga philosophy is too hard to understand, too foreign, too old, or too removed from our current context to be applicable to our lives.

The other, kind of the opposite, is a “been there, done that” attitude. We might have learned a little bit about yoga philosophy and concluded we already know it and therefore, there’s nothing left for us to learn.

In my experience, both are unfortunate, because they keep us from availing ourselves of the...

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Letting the Body Lead the Way Aug 31, 2022

 

We’ve arrived at Late Summer in the Northern hemisphere, the fifth season of the year according to the Five-element theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine that begins around the third week in August and lasts until the Fall Equinox. 
 
It’s a transitional season when the fiery, outward energy of Summer gradually gives way to the earthy, inward quality of Autumn. It’s a time of ripening and transformation in nature when the last bursts of growth happen before the Fall harvest. 
 
For us as yoga practitioners, it’s a great time for self-nurturing, taking time to reflect on the lessons and experiences of the summer, and going a little bit slower...

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Presence, Pause, Possibility Aug 24, 2022

Pause. Breathe. Notice what you are thinking right now.

The idea that humans are self-relational creatures—that we can know what's going on in our minds—might seem obvious, simple, and perhaps basic to what we know and experience to be true in yoga. Yet, it’s an extraordinary notion when you consider its implications.

Anthropologists would say we are participant-observers. We participate in our inner and outer lives, and we can also stand back and observe ourselves from an outside perspective.

I believe that this is one of the major ways that transformation happens in yoga. As we practice, we create just enough distance from our mental states and thoughts to be able to see...

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New Again Aug 17, 2022


I often tell students that yoga isn’t a quick fix, but it’s a real fix. With consistent practice over time, yoga supports our whole selves to be better and to live better. 
 
This is why making our practices new - again and again and again – is such an important part of yoga. Learning how to continue with yoga when we become bored, or our practices start to feel lackluster, is necessary to reap the benefits of a regular and long-term engagement with our practice. 
 
In a world of infinite opportunities for distraction, this skill has only gotten more vital to sustaining an interesting and relevant yoga practice.

One of the best ways I’ve found to...

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If you don’t want to change... Aug 10, 2022

 

"If you don’t want to change, don’t do yoga"

I’ll never forget when my teacher said this to our teacher training group back in the late 1990’s. He stated it as if it was a matter of fact, as if change was an eventuality of sticking around in yoga long enough.
 
I’ve repeated it to students many times over the years. They usually chuckle knowingly and nod their heads in agreement.

But experiencing positive change as a result of yoga practice takes more than just physical ability. When I started yoga nearly 30 years ago, I could “do” all the postures on the outside, but inside was the same old self-critical...

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Both Sides Aug 03, 2022

 

As a long-time Joni Mitchell fan, I’m among the throngs of people who were mesmerized and moved to tears by her appearance at the Newport Folk Festival a few weeks ago.
 
Joni was in her early 20s when she wrote the iconic song Both Sides Now. When it first came out some people criticized the lyrics. What could someone so young possibly know about the seeing life from different angles?
 
Over the years, and through multiple interpretations by her and others, the song continues to convey layers of depth and meaning about the paradoxical and subjective nature of human experience.
 
I wonder, what was it in 23-year-old Joni, who hadn’t yet launched her...

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Perfect Summer Sorbet Jul 27, 2022

 

Daniel Pinard’s Homemade Strawberry Sorbet is one of my favorite summer dessert recipes and one I’ve been making for years. It’s simple, light, and so refreshing and satisfying. Plus, it doesn’t require any fancy equipment other than a food processor.
 
Fresh Strawberry Sorbet
2 cups of fresh strawberry puree (about 4 cups of strawberries)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup of sugar (any kind)
1 cup of water
1 egg white
 
1. Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.
 
2. In a bowl, add the lemon juice, sugar, and water to the pureed strawberries. For a richer sorbet, prepare 3 cups of strawberries and don’t add water.
 
3. Mix well with a...

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Starstuff Jul 20, 2022

 

"We are made of starstuff." Carl Sagan

Now that you’ve had a chance to see the clearest views yet of our universe, how do you feel?
 
When I first saw the photos from the James Webb telescope that revealed numerous galaxies, some more than 4.6 billion light years away, I was moved by the beauty of the images and stunned by the scope of what they captured.
 
Then, I felt deeply comforted to realize how infinitesimal we are in the unfathomably vast expanse of the universe. After all, life on planet earth is no picnic these days, so it can be somewhat of a relief to consider how insignificant and tiny we are in the bigger scheme of things, right?
 
...

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What Does it Mean to Nurture the True Spirit of Yoga? Jul 13, 2022

 

Do you know the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant? It’s a traditional Indian story about a group of blind men who’ve never encountered an elephant before. They learn what the elephant is like by touching it. 

One puts his hand on the elephant's side and says, “Now I know all about an elephant, he’s just like a wall.”

The second feels the elephant's tusk and responds, “No, you’re mistaken. He's not at all like a wall. He's more like a spear."

The third takes hold of the elephant's trunk and argues, “You’re both wrong, an elephant is like a snake."

The fourth takes hold of the elephant's ear and says,...

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The Yoga of Listening, Part 2 - How to Listen to Your Body Jul 06, 2022


If you’re reading this, then I bet you’ve heard - perhaps many times – that ubiquitous phrase of well-meaning yoga teachers (myself included!): Listen to your body
 
But have you ever wondered how to do it?

What language does the body speak, anyway?
 
Many of us might be familiar with the everyday snap-crackle-pop sounds of stiff joints waking up. More often, though, the body speaks to us through sensation. Therefore, listening to the body in yoga is primarily about being attuned to what you’re feeling and getting more sensitive to perceiving the sensations that are arising in your body.
 
Being invited to listen to your body...

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