Beyond Asana Blog

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

Upright Living in Upside-Down Times Aug 09, 2020

 

One of my friends, a fellow yoga teacher, turned 85 last week. In response to my email wishing him a happy birthday he wrote,
 
I did a headstand to celebrate in these upside-down times.
 
That felt appropriate. Usually, yoga friends might celebrate such an occasion with 85 Sun Salutations, but this year it makes sense to go upside down. It’s feels like that’s just how life is these days.
 
My friend’s message reminded me of the upside-down representation of the Shiva Nataraj.
 
Many of us might be familiar with this typical representation of the Ananda Tandava, the divine dance of Lord Shiva:

It portrays the five acts of Shiva, Shiva as the...

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Turning the Outer Posture Inward Jul 30, 2020

 

Last week, I wrote about the shift that happens when we focus on how we are being rather than just what we’re doing. Nowhere is this more apparent, and important, than in asana practice.

Consider Child's pose. Physically, it’s a pose where you sit on your heels with the big toes together and knees apart, fold your torso forward over your legs and rest your forehead on the floor. That’s how you do the pose. But none of that describes the many ways to be in this pose. It’s a pranam, the classic posture of reverence in the Indian tradition. This is often how I practice it, infusing the form of bowing with the inner feeling of...

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How Do You Be? Jul 23, 2020

 

Following a meditation retreat a few years ago I decided that I want to focus less on what I wanted to DO and more on how I wanted to BE.

No sooner did I decide on this shift than I realized that it isn’t as easy as it seems.

It can be so tempting, rewarding even, to put my energy into what I want to accomplish and achieve. But to bring a chosen state of being to my actions? To prioritize HOW I want to be as I do all the things I do? That takes conscious effort. And attention.

I remember my teacher once saying something like anyone can work like a bull, but to work with sweetness and clarity, well, that’s something else entirely. To bring the best of ourselves...

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Yoga’s Perfect Moment Jul 17, 2020

 

Like many of us, there are moments these days when I’m in mourning for the yoga world that was. As retreat season here in Quebec rolls around, memories of past events popped up on my feed this week. With places around the world slowly opening up, teachers have reached out to me with questions about how, when and where they will go back to giving in-person classes. There are so many questions and very few clear-cut answers.

As I’ve seen some big-name, corporate studios close their doors, I admit that on one hand I’m relieved to see that the unsustainable bubble of studio chains and teacher-training machines finally might be bursting for...

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Life is Like an Ice Sculpture Jul 09, 2020

 

What better time than a hot, steamy July day to consider the case of the champion ice sculptor?

Can you imagine dedicating yourself wholeheartedly to producing the most beautiful, exquisite art you're capable of while knowing it would soon disappear?


What would it be like to work diligently, to give your all to a project, while knowing full well it was fundamentally temporary and fleeting?

What if you embraced the idea that the act of creating was the goal itself?

Stay cool, stay well,

 

 

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Inner Resources Jul 02, 2020

 

This morning I had an appointment in our village that is slowly opening up. It's a time of day I'm not usually out. On my way home, I got to see the recycling truck and the mail carrier in action.

Although it might sound like a strange thing to say at a time when so much feels off-kilter, I actually had the thought, "All is happening as it should be."

I felt grateful for all the services and people I count on for the everyday functioning of my life. I’m thankful to live in a society where resources like these are provided on a regular basis. They're so important, yet I hardly ever think about it.


Similarly, a few days ago I was speaking with a group of yoga friends...

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Getting an "A" in Yoga Jun 26, 2020

 

Getting an "A" in yoga.

Sounds silly, right? The idea of getting a grade or receiving some kind of external reward for performance in yoga so obviously goes against our most basic reasons for doing the practice.
 
Seth Godin in his book What to do When It’s Your Turn, writes:

"… The prevailing system of the educational-industrial complex puts the fear of a ‘C’ in us. The entire point of twelve (or sixteen) years of our lives isn’t to learn anything, it’s to get an ‘A’…What if instead, we decided to opt in to a different path, the path of always learning?"
 
Because yoga is, or can be, all about continuous...

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The Inner Sun Jun 18, 2020

 

Use your own light and return to the source of light. This is called practicing eternity.

-Lao Tzu

One of the more interesting gifts I’ve received as a teacher was a bright-yellow Brazilian Melon. A student in a retreat gave it to me a few years ago as a symbol of the lightness she felt in the days following our time together. For me, it was a sweet reminder of the inner sun that yoga reveals within us.

This is the Prana Shakti. Like a sun inside ourselves, prana is the source energy that animates our bodies, enlivens our senses and powers our minds.

I spent a luxurious amount of time this weekend watching the sun illumine the fields and mountains around my...

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Restore the Light Jun 12, 2020

 

Today feels like the right day to revisit the story of Tikkun Olam as told by Rachel Naomi Remen:

In the beginning, there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand, thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. 

And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand, thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all...

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The Wound is Where the Light Comes In Jun 04, 2020

 

“The wound is the place where the light enters you” – Rumi

I learned recently that Rumi’s poem preceded this phrase that Leonard Cohen made famous. While I’ve contemplated this on my own internal level many times, it feels that now the collective wound is open. The wound of our society’s prejudice and injustice. It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable. It’s deeply unsettling.

And yet, necessary.

Necessary for the light to make its way in, for the reckoning to begin. For healing to become possible.

We have our work cut out for us. It starts with being willing to fully feel the pain of the wound itself, to take an unflinching look at...

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