“Only a few classes and my back pain is gone! I love yoga!”
“I’ve been meditating for just a couple of weeks and I’m already sleeping better. Amazing!”
“Learning to focus on my breathing has made a huge difference in how I deal with stress at work. Wow! Yoga really works!”
Yoga is powerful. It often doesn’t take long to feel its positive impact. Many of us have experienced shifts - both small and large - pretty quickly. Fired up, we commit to making yoga a consistent part of our lives.
However, the pace of transformation doesn’t often continue at such a dramatic rate as these initial shifts. Yoga begins to feel dry and boring. Motivation wanes. Practice becomes a chore rather than a delight. You might feel as if nothing is happening, or that yoga isn’t helping you anymore. You certainly don’t feel the exuberant joy for practice you once did. As we continue, enthusiasm for practice is something we...
Recently, a student remarked to me after class,
“Thank you. This was exactly where I needed to be."
I suspect she was grateful not only to have placed herself in the practices on that particular day, but also to have done so in a space dedicated to yoga and nurturing the path of inner connection.
I’ve always thought of neighbourhood studios not only as yoga schools, but just as fundamentally as community centers. Aside from being, hopefully, one of the last places where we are free from our devices for a little while, studios that encourage community are a kind of modern marketplace, where ideas are shared and connections are made. And even more valuable and rare than that, dedicated yoga spaces are places that can spark and sustain the precious longings of seekers.
My practice was honed in local centres, meditation groups, and retreat sites. These were places where other seekers welcomed me. They gave me the space to nurture my burgeoning pull...
The attainment of the Samadhi state involves the elimination of all-pointedness [i.e. wandering] of the mind and the rise of one-pointedness [i.e. concentration].
Yoga Sutra 3.11, trans. by Edwin Bryant
Under the appearance of thought, there is really an indefinite and disordered flickering, fed by sensations words, and memory. The first duty of the yogin is to think-that is, not to let himself think. This is why Yoga practice begins with ekagrata, which darns the mental stream and thus constitutes a 'psychic mass,' a solid and unified continuum.
When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place.
Bhagavad Gita, 6.19-20
The most powerful lessons in one-pointedness I’ve had came while watching yajnas, ancient Vedic fire ceremonies that are performed by Brahmin priests. During the 4 years I lived in India I attended a number of these ceremonies, which often last for several days. In a yajna, Vedic mantras are...
The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire; water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it. The Self cannot be pierced or burned, made wet or dry. It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of eternity.
Bhagavad Gita Verses 2.23-25
Can you imagine what it would be like to be able to access this state of absolute independence?
Yoga practice draws us from outside in, from the periphery toward the center. It does this by directing our sense awareness, which usually moves outward to interact with the world around us, inside. As we sharpen a kinaesthetic sense of ourselves, we also become more sensitive to our breathing, energy, and the movements of our minds.
Diving into the inner terrain is also where we can experience an awareness of ourselves that is different from what the senses capture, somehow different from the thinking mind, a sense of who we are apart from our personal identity. It is a peaceful, calm and steady...
Being a good yoga student, and sometimes even becoming a teacher, used to be straightforward. You would show up for class once or twice a week with your teacher and in between supplement with their indications for your home practice. When your teacher, or your teacher’s teacher offered workshops, you showed up and learned more. You continued developing your practice like this for years. Over time you inquired deeper on your own, began (and hopefully were encouraged) to trust your insights, and answer your own questions. Perhaps, one day, the teacher went on vacation or got sick and couldn’t show up for class and asked you to step in for her. You could do this because you had an integrated base of knowledge and understanding simply from being a dedicated student. That’s how some teachers I know actually started teaching. I’m not saying it’s the ideal way to become a teacher, but it is certainly got many people started back in the day.
I was an archaeology major in university. Following graduation I set off to dig in Europe and the Middle East. Among the most exciting finds of my very limited time as an amateur excavator were: an ancient camel tooth, the remains of a Neolithic dog cemetery and a Bronze age clothing pin.
Our first days on the site were about surveying the land, taking baseline elevation measurements, getting to know the soil composition and making a general plan for excavation based on what was known about the history of the location we were digging.
Once the area had been mapped and gridlines set up we cleared way the initial layers of earth with pick axes, shovels and wheelbarrows. Then, we set to digging with trowels and small shovels, going slower, more carefully. Dirt would go into buckets to be sifted through by the handful.
As we started finding bones and pottery fragments our instruments became more delicate. We began using toothbrushes, tweezers and dental picks,...
I remember attending a yoga intensive a few months after I began meditating regularly. It was a grey, rainy morning. I woke up late and I was in a really terrible mood. Rushing to get to the program, I waited for the bus in the rain, feeling angry at the bus driver. I was ready, even waiting, for the chance to lash out at anyone and everyone. I walked into the meditation hall still seething with anger and frustration. As I took my seat, inwardly, I heard a man’s voice clearly say,
‘This is not who you are. I will show you who you really are.”
I looked up at my teacher’s picture at the front of the hall and his glance penetrated my being. It cut right through all the negativity I was experiencing. Instinctively, I was able to see myself kicking and screaming with rage as if I was watching my inner tantrum from outside. Inwardly, I bowed and surrendered to him. Waves of emotion arose, tears came. I felt an intense longing to know who I was beneath my...
In 1997 I moved to India for a long-term stay at the ashram of the meditation path I had been a student of for several years. A few weeks after I arrived I was invited to offer seva, selfless service, as the kitchen manager. In this role, I was responsible for overseeing the cooks and the chopping room, planning the menus, ordering the food, managing the budget for a kitchen that served both Western and Indian meals, three times a day, plus morning chai, for over 300 people. Since I had only just recently arrived, the Indian culture and cuisine were still new to me. I didn’t even know the Hindi names of the vegetables. There was so much to learn! I knew this was going to be a time of great expansion for me.
My fellow yogis did their best to support me in learning my new role and from the beginning everything went really well--on the outside. All the meals were tasty and on time and there was always enough food for everyone. But inside, a long held habit of...
Writer and educator Carol Horton, recently posted this on her Facebook page:
Yesterday, I was leading a YTT [Yoga Teacher Training] discussion on issues in contemporary yoga culture, including but not limited to yoga and body image. At one point, I asked everyone who has ever struggled with feelings that they're "not good enough" in the face of commodified images of the "yoga body" to raise their hands. In a split second, every hand in room shot up, including mine.
Mine would have too. How about you?
Like many women I know, I grew up feeling self-conscious about my body size. Tall, strong, and broad-shouldered, I was “big-boned” as adults liked to say, which in my mind always translated as fat (even though I wasn’t). I was the biggest on the kickline in high school. I did dance and gymnastics until, as a teenager, it became clear that my body type made it unlikely that I would ever be able to seriously advance in these disciplines. I wanted to hide my...
In yoga philosophy, both energy (prana) and consciousness (citta) are considered to evolve directly out of cosmic intelligence (mahat). Mahat is the universal intelligence of Nature. The rocks have universal intelligence. Every leaf has it. Every cell of every creature has it. It is all pervasive and infinite. The genius of nature’s intelligence is self-expression. That is why nature is infinitely varied, infinitely inventive. Prana is our link to this infinite intelligence. What a shame it is that we have such access and ignore its use and development. We are like someone with a vast fortune locked in a numbered bank account who forgets the number and so must scrape by in poverty. We live within our individual consciousness with its limited intelligence, often feeling lonely and puny, when there is a conduit available directly to cosmic consciousness and intelligence. Through this conduit flows prana, joining each individual among us to the highest original principle of...
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.