The first “spiritual” book I ever read was Peace is Every Step by the Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. This small book about mindfulness opened up a world of possibility for me, one where happiness and contentment could be cultivated from within.
Recalling it now, more than 20 years later, I am reminded of the precious beginnings of my search, and the longing sparked an inquiry myself and what this life was all about anyway.
Remembering back to the early teachings that touched us and turned our attention toward living a more consicous life are landmarks to be honoured. They help us to acknowledge the yearning that ignited our search and that is still, when we can remember it, likely at the heart of our practice.
Whether or not you can join me for my upcoming workshop on 5 core teachings of yoga, I hope you'll take some time this week to reignite your love for yoga by revisiting the sacred knowledge of our tradition that has...
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi - 13th century mystic
At the meditation ashram where I sometimes have the privilege of teaching hatha yoga classes, the teachers debrief after each and every class.
Reflecting on your teaching with others is a valuable way to improve your skills as a teacher, acknowledge your strengths and identify areas for growth. The last of course is the most delicate and least comfortable for most of us.
Teaching yoga is a highly personal endeavour. Dedicated teachers put themselves out there every time they take their seat at the front of the room. We teach out of a love for the practice and they -both teaching and practice - are dear to us. This high degree of personal investment makes us vulnerable. It may cause us to fear entering into a dialogue and miss the golden opportunity to receive constructive feedback.
It requires courage to disengage from the...
Yes, my Canadian sisters and brothers and friends throughout the Northern Hemisphere, it’s that time again. I wish I could have waited at least until November to give you some ways to generate heat in your practice. As I sit here typing with chilled fingers and a cup of hot water on my desk, though, I realize it's time.
Strengthening agni, the fire element, in your practice means not just building internal heat, but using your yoga to become more powerful, purposeful and self-motivated. These are some of the qualities of the Manipura chakra, located at the level of the solar plexus, which is associated with the element of fire. This is why many of the poses I suggest below bring energy to that region.
Best asanas to build heat:
· Standing Poses: Especially Virabhadrasana 1, 2 and 3, Utkatasana, Garudasana
· Twists: Standing and Seated, especially “closed”...
In the second installment of my interview with Shantala, Benjy and Heather share their perspective on how kirtan has developed in the context of Western yoga culture and some of the important questions and challenges facing the evolution of the Western Bhakti movement. We're looking forward to welcoming them back to Shri Yoga this Monday, October 19.
BARRIE: Just as asana practice has evolved to meet the needs of Western students, how has kirtan developed? What are some of the up sides and down sides of this evolution from your perspective?
BENJY & HEATHER: Over the last fifty years or so, there has been a wave of yoga practices – centering especially around asana in North America, Europe, and increasingly around the world – that has now become strongly integrated into western culture. Following the wave of the rapidly increasing popularity of asana, kirtan (as well as some other spiritual practices) has also become an important part of many...
Benjy and Heather Wertheimer, aka Shantala have been leading kirtan for the past 15 years. They are known for sharing their love of sacred chanting with beauty, passion and reverence. Shantala has performed and recorded internationally with such sacred music luminaries as Krishna Das, Deva Premal & Miten, and Jai Uttal. In summer 2008, they were named as one of the top “Wallahs to Watch” by Yoga + Joyful Living.
In the first part of this thoughtful interview, Benjy and Heather discuss the power of kirtan, explain how chanting supports asana practice and offer tips for yoga teachers to incorporate music into their classes. We're looking forward to welcoming them back to Shri Yoga this Monday, October 19.
1. Tell us a bit about your background and how you got involved in leading kirtan and devotional chanting.
The path that brought each of us into this role is somewhat different, but it’s also...
How about including your body?
It’s your vehicle, your instrument, the house of your spirit, the sacred vessel of consciousness and the living, breathing miracle of your existence on this earth.
Amidst the aches and pains you might be experiencing, think of the thousands of things that go right to make it possible for you to get out of bed in the morning.
For a moment, set aside your judgments and complaints about all the ways it doesn’t live up to your expectations for it, and thank your body for its immense and unceasing efforts in service to all you do.
Then, if you wish to go a step further, consider who is doing the thanking.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
I take these words quite literally these days. As the weather turns colder and I become ever more comfortable under the covers, when the alarm clock rings and its time to get up for meditation, hopefully I can remember, Don’t go back to sleep, and all that implies.
More profoundly, though, this poem calls on us to nurture our experience of awakening. It asks us to clarify and then commit to the shifts we really want to make. It encourages us with the possibility of stepping through the doorsill into a new way of being. It also speaks to the perseverance needed to stay engaged with and interested in our own...
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.