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, perfect and whole. It’s overlaid in everyday life with the ups and downs of material existence, which at times can seem and feel so completely imperfect. The image of the nautilus reminds us of a larger perspective, what Ram Dass calls “The God’s eye view of life.” It...
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.
Like the chambers of the nautilus shell, we can view our path as yogis as evolving into progressively more expanded states of being. Over time, the lessons we’ve learned, the knowledge we’ve gained and assimilated through practice and reflection become part of who we are. We use the deeper...
“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 and cozy, and quite likely, at least in the short term, everything is NOT going to be OK. We feel we are poised on the battlefield, being called on to stand up as warriors for the most essential truth we know - the dignity of the human spirit.
And, like so many, I’ve been trying to...
From where I sit in Southern Quebec it’s clear that this week is about letting go. In nature, of course, that is happening gracefully, organically and precisely as it should be. In my own very human life, however, letting go isn’t always that natural or easy. Why is it that my mind and body clearly prefer holding on to unproductive thoughts and limiting patterns rather than releasing into the great joy of just letting it all fall away? Hmmm...The good news is there's yoga!
By releasing tension and temporarily turning the mind inside, yoga invites us to surrender habitual patterns of movement, thought and feeling and welcome in more ease, freedom and inner calm.
The value of letting go is immense. It refreshes us and creates space for clarity to emerge. Whether its how to better align our hands in Downward Dog, or taking a fresh look at a situation we’ve been dealing with, letting go allows us to see new possibility in familiar places.
Shoulders and upper...
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 your body, or to explore new and different ways of moving, then I would say go for it and take advantage of all the wonderful variety that’s out there.
Likewise, if you are interested in using yoga for physical fitness you might benefit from practicing a variety of methods that work together to...
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.
Calling all teachers: The next session of my online mentoring program begins October 31st (spooky, I know). It's a rare opportunity to dive into wisdom of yoga with a group of engaged, curious and collegial teachers. This time around, we'll be using the essays in Light on...
Do you know about Father Joe Pereira?
A few weeks ago he was in Montreal to offer a series of workshops including a 2-day training on Iyengar Yoga for addiction. At the end of the training, I had the opportunity to speak with him about the role of service for the yogi. He told me:
“Service is a natural outcome of a practitioner who looks at this practice as a gift. … you can’t keep it to yourself, you want to share it with somebody. “
Notice how this may already be true for you. How do you feel after a...
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 standing posture. This not only helps you to remember to release unconscious holding, but also alerts you to subtle shifts in alignment that can restore ease and freedom in your body.
BREATH: Even a moment or two of conscious breathing can be tremendously nourishing, powerful and even transcendent. Focus...
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 more scheduled life affords, including time to apply myself more consistently to the work I love, like reviving this blog!
However, one of the areas in my own body where I can feel the effects of this increased productivity right away is my neck and shoulders. Even with my ergonomically-optimal...
One of the most remarkable aspects of our training was the group itself. Not only were we presenting the practices of yoga to people who were experiencing these practices for the first time, but from a cultural perspective what we introduced was so new and different. Our work called on our trainees to step out of their expected and familiar roles, to expand their ideas of what they could do and understand what helping people to get out of pain meant.
Responding to the challenges that arose to meet the needs of our unique group of teachers-to-be called on our years of teaching experience, group facilitation and communication skills.
Initially, Erin and I had expected that we would co-teach a training group of 13 participants together. Our trainees represented the two locations where World Spine Care (WSC) operates clinics in Botswana. Raquel Rojo-Delgado, the WSC Clinic supervisor, knew the communities well and did a great job in identifying participants for...
Our free, online bonus content is designed to complement and enrich your experience of Evolving Your Yoga. Resources like video pose tutorials, downloadable journaling prompts, breathwork, guided visualizations, and more will support your exploration of each of the Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice.