Beyond Asana Blog

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

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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The Yoga of Listening, Part 1 - Listening to Others Jun 29, 2022

 

It all started more than 20 years ago, when B.K.S. Iyengar was instructing Triangle pose. He stood on my mat and roared, “You want to learn yoga, but you don’t even know how to listen!”  

This began an ongoing inquiry into the nature and importance of listening in yoga and asking questions like: What does it really mean to listen? How do you do it? And what does listening have to do with learning yoga?

(If you’re interested in the story behind how I got to be on the receiving end of B.K.S. Iyengar’s ire, one of my most treasured and thrilling experiences in yoga - read this post. The photo above was taken during a celebration at the Ramamani...

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6 Tips for Maintaining a Balanced Yoga Practice Jun 23, 2022

 

These days I find my way to the mat but have no idea what to practice. I used to let my body or mood guide me, but my tendency is to return to the poses I love the most, and variety is missing from my practice… Lately, I find myself stepping onto the mat, turning inward for guidance and..... crickets.... Any suggestions on creating a balanced home practice when you are feeling uninspired, or not clear on what you need? 

I love this question I recently received from a long-time student. For one thing, it illustrates to me that this person has already taken the first crucial step toward a balanced yoga practice—to start thinking about it!

It also touches on one...

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Getting Comfortable with Paradox Jun 15, 2022

 

In my recent “Body is the Vessel” workshop, I got to revisit the fascinating paradox at the heart of yogic practice - the notion that we are embodied spirits. 
 
We have a finite life, a body, an individual identity with its personality and preferences. At the very same time, the tradition teaches, we also have a mystical, sublime, and ultimately infinite essence. 

Yogic wisdom, therefore, is also always paradoxical because it reflects this dual perspective on human existence. Like the swing of a pendulum, yoga invites us to dance with the polarities of body and spirit, fleeting and eternal, everchanging and constant.

As long as we are alive, the essential...

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Why I Love Triangle Pose Jun 08, 2022

 

Maybe it’s the strength it builds in the legs, or the familiarity of the form, or the sturdiness of the shape itself - or perhaps it’s all of those things - that make Trikonasana a pose I come back to time and again.  
 
Entering Triangle pose is like setting out for a hike on a familiar trail. I know the terrain well. I also know my experience will be different every time, because I’m never the same. I’ve probably practiced this pose more than a thousand times. Each time is unique if I’m paying attention.   
 
Stepping my feet apart, I stand firmly in the triangle formed by my legs and the earth as I prepare. I...

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No Mat Required - Part 2 Jun 01, 2022

 

Every Spring for several years now, one of the trees in our front yard becomes home to a family of Turtle Doves.
 
Every morning, without fail these days, I watch from the window as the adult birds fly down from the tree to find food for their hatchlings, and then fly back up to deliver it to them. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth they go, so resolutely fulfilling their responsibility as parents to feed and nurture their babies.
 
To me, this is a great lesson about the power of dharma.
 
Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means sacred duty or righteous action. It is the principle that each of us, and everything in nature, has specific and...

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No Mat Required May 26, 2022

 

I recently got a message from a new mother asking for advice about doing yoga with her baby and how to make brief and often interrupted practice sessions spiritually meaningful and physically useful.
 
Having been there myself, I have some tips that are specific to her situation. You can read those on the web version of this post if you’re interested. 
 
But there’s a broader response to her question that I think is important and applicable for all practitioners, because as we continue down the road of yoga, there will undoubtedly be times when - for whatever reason - we aren’t able to do our usual practices. 
 
What...

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The Unstoppable Impulse to Be May 19, 2022

 

Have you heard about Great Pacific Patch - that enormous “island” of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean?
 
As sad and alarming as it may be, there is also something amazing about it. It is teaming with life. Scientists recently found that there were huge concentrations of organisms living amongst the plastic debris. Some hypothesize that there are as many of these organisms living there as there are pieces of garbage.
 
I thought about this as I walked through our neighborhood a few days ago. For all of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s that singularly vibrant time of year when nature is working overtime as the tender green shoots...

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