Beyond Asana Blog

Available for Beauty

May 20, 2021

 

You know those three "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" monkeys? I have an untraditional interpretation for them.

Last night, I went out for a walk at dusk. It was a gorgeous night. The colours of the sunset were spectacular, the light was magical, the birds were singing, the air was fragrant. And yet, I repeatedly caught myself wrapped up in my own mind, completely oblivious to the beauty happening all around me. Not hearing, not seeing, not feeling any of it. What a shame.

Again and again, I had to bring myself out of my thoughts and into the moment. And that was just the first step.

It's one thing to witness and acknowledge a beautiful sky. It's another to really let it in, savor it, and be moved by it.

Being available for beauty is a practice. Wonder takes effort. It doesn't happen automatically.

Today, I invite you to avail yourself of the beauty on offer to you. Practice wonder.

 

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How do you know it’s working?

May 12, 2021


Even if we're yoga teachers, or seasoned students with years of practice under our belts, articulating the benefits of practice might not be something we’re accustomed to doing.

How is yoga serving you in your life right now?

What are the specific practices that you find most useful? Why?

When I completed my book I started speaking to small groups about how to deepen, expand, and integrate the benefits of yoga. I focused on questions like these so people could hone in on the exact ways yoga was serving them in their lives.

Very practical answers often came up, such as:

"A few minutes of  Alternate Nostril Breathing helps me to feel grounded and not nervous before a presentation at work."

"Putting my legs up the wall helps me calm down at the end of a stressful day."

"My daily 20-minute meditation is the cornerstone of my emotional well-being."

It's easy to get so caught up in the outer forms that yoga takes – both in our own communities and in the...

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Friendly Discipline

May 05, 2021

 

Among the virtues, discipline has always played a starring role in the life of a yogi. It can also be the most misunderstood.
 
During these strange times where some of us are moving into a more active life while others are still very much in everything-at-home mode, I think there’s a particular kind of discipline needed to maintain equilibrium. A discipline that’s adaptable, a shiftable structure that can both meet our needs and keep us focused.
 
As someone who has worked at home for years, I can tell you that the single most important thing I do to stay motivated is to write out a schedule for my day every morning that lists the things I want to accomplish. This self-imposed framework keeps me focused and provides a structure that is essential to doing my work successfully.
  
The second most important thing I do is to allow myself the freedom to pivot, adapt, and shift as needed.
 
I imagine a stately river flowing. The banks of the river...

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Stress & Ease

Apr 28, 2021

 

In their own ways, stress and ease are both necessary for our well being.  
 
Some degree of tension is beneficial and needed. The right kinds and amounts of stress bolster your immune system, make your mind sharper, and keep your bones, joints, and muscles strong and resilient.
 
As we know, however, too much stress becomes a compressive, constrictive, and counterproductive force on these very same levels.
 
Ease, on the other hand, is also important. In the right doses, it helps you feel in the flow, calm, measured, and relaxed.
 
Too much, though, and we become lazy, complacent, and maybe even bored.

For those of us who seek to live a productive and purposeful life, the balance of stress and ease is a moving target.

Part of assessing this balance lies in knowing how much stress is beneficial for you to stay motivated without life feeling difficult?

And, how much ease is needed to feel comfortable and relaxed without feeling...

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The April Snowstorm

Apr 22, 2021

 

Spiritual awakening is the difficult process whereby the increasing realisation that everything is as wrong as it can be flips suddenly into the realisation that everything is as right is it can be. Or better, everything is as it can be.      

Alan Watts



Yep, it's white again here. The fireplace is back on. My feed is filled with virtual sighs and complaints from my fellow Quebecers.

This is nothing new for us, though. In fact, it's to be expected. It almost always snows in Quebec in April. 

The weather is something so obviously beyond our capacity to influence, why even give it a second thought? And, yet, we (and I include myself here) do.

Why do we spend time and energy wishing it would be different when we know it's futile?

I could give you a long and analytical answer, but it wouldn't necessarily changes things. It certainly wouldn't make Spring magically reappear.

Instead, I'd like to offer an alternative approach:

Why not respond to...

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Learning to Listen

Apr 15, 2021

 

When I attended the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India in August 2000, most of the classes were taught by Geeta and Prashant Iyengar.

BKS Iyengar was also there most days, doing his own practice in the back of the room. In almost every class he would step in and teach for a little while.

One day, while he was instructing Triangle pose, he yelled across the room an instruction that was meant for me. It was about adjusting my left foot, but I didn’t catch it. He then came over, stood on my mat and said to me,

“You want to learn yoga, but you don’t even know how to listen!”

And so began my ongoing inquiry into the relationship between listening, learning, and yoga. 

Listening to others means paying attention, giving up your agenda, being available to receive another’s words. True listening is a generous act. We give the other person the gift of our presence.

Turned inward, listening requires that you...

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Why Spring?

Apr 08, 2021

 

It’s that time of year here in Sutton when the calendar says it’s Spring but there are still little patches of snow here and there. Where there isn’t snow there’s mud. The trees are mostly bare with just the tiniest hints of new growth. It’s still a pretty barren landscape.

We know, though, that in a few weeks nature will burst forth with new life. There’s an innate potency that will awaken the earth, the trees, the flowers, and the birds.

Yoga teaches that this potential for creating, for bringing new life into being is within all of us as well.

In Chapter 10 of the Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells Arjuna where to look for him in the things of the world. He says things like,

“Among animals, I am the lion,”
“Among birds I am the eagle,”
“Among letters I am A.”

In that long list he says,

Among seasons, I am spring, which brings forth flowers. (10.35)

I’ve always been...

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Within Your Reach

Apr 01, 2021

 

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.  

-Clarissa Pinkola Estés


I fully believe that the only way to effect meaningful change in the world is to begin with our selves.

Yet, I still sometimes struggle with the enormity of the world's suffering and how that contrasts with the privilege I enjoy of being able to spend the amount of time that I do practicing and thinking about yoga, and "working on myself."

I know better than to consider this selfish, yet sometimes it feels tinged with self-indulgence, a sense of luxury and entitlement.
Shouldn't I be doing something more timely, more urgent, than contemplating the nature of the Self? 

But then I remember that all of us are entrusted with a small corner of the world to serve in our own unique way.

For some people it takes the form of political activism, or fostering children or animals, or fundraising...

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The Process (and Pulsation) of Aligning

Mar 25, 2021

 

At ease, in the present moment, spacious, clear, grounded, centered, calm, settled.
 
These are some of the words that describe my experience of being in alignment in my asana practice yesterday – a lower-body focused practice of seated hip openers and twists.
 
Articulating beneficial experiences in yoga strengthens them.

Therefore, I invite you to explore your own process of moving into alignment:
 
- How do you go from feeling out of sync to synched up? From scattered to sorted? 

- How would you describe the movement toward unity and wholeness that comes from bringing the pieces and parts of you into greater harmony? 

- What words convey the experience of feeling aligned in your body and being?
 
To get you started, perhaps it’s helpful to share a bit about my experience. For me, alignment is a process that moves in pulsation. 
 
On the one hand, there’s a deconstructive aspect: I sense where there’s...

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Flow, Reimagined

Mar 18, 2021

 

I stood on a small bridge near my house the other day, focusing on the movement of a freshly defrosted stream flowing beneath me. 

I’ve observed and listened to this particular stream before, but I experienced it differently this time.
 
Instead of my usual feeling of moving head-on into the flow of the water, I felt the energy of the stream supporting me from behind. 
 
I imagined myself moving forward like that stream - with grace, tenderness, and the support of the universe at my back.

The feeling of letting go and being gently propelled into the flow was incredibly comforting.
 
It was a powerful lesson in the value of temporarily releasing everything: our fears, worries, anxieties, and also our ideas, plans, and goals.

In that release, trust emerges.

Trust that we’re supported.
 
Trust that we’re part of a bigger flow of life.

Trust that when we soften enough and manage to move into harmony with that flow, our own...

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