Beyond Asana Blog
My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.
In our recent discussion about yoga and studentship, Buddhist teacher Frank Jude Boccio and I hit on a crucial but often overlooked aspect of the enduring nature of the practice.
On the one hand, the essence of yoga remains constant. The roadmap for our practice doesn’t change: turning inward to connect the mind with the body, creating space for the breath within the body, and using the breath to still the mind.
Likewise, we understand that the benefits of yoga emerge from consistency – from repetitive, dedicated engagement with the practice over time, known as abhyasa in the tradition.
However, even though much of our practice remains consistent, we also recognize that...
One of my asana teachers used to tell me that when I first came to him, my poses were like pouring a glass of water. As a flexible body type, I gravitated toward asana because it was fun. I could put my leg behind my head, do a full split, and go deep in backbends simply by virtue of my natural suppleness. I was flexible, but not very strong.
As I got more serious about my practice and learned about the nature of balance in yoga, I worked to build greater strength and stability. I held poses longer and made sure I was regularly working on poses that were hard for me (instead of avoiding them!)
Over time, and supported by my meditation and contemplative practices, getting stronger...
One of the profound themes that emerged from my recent women’s retreat was just how subversive it can be to prioritize balance in one’s life.
Try as we might, many of our learning institutions and work cultures just aren’t set up to support a life that reflects the yogic view of harmony and equilibrium.
To champion balance, therefore, can feel like fighting an uphill battle. It requires us to carve out spaces where productivity harmonizes with rest, and where the pursuit of external accomplishments finds balance with the richness of our inner lives.
Perhaps the wisdom of the body can teach us about what it means to create balance in an out of balance world.
When it’s warm out, I often write sitting on my back deck facing the White Pine tree that towers over our backyard. I’ve learned a lot about strength from contemplating it’s stalwart and stately presence.
Little did I know, the timing my Evolving Your Yoga book tour was perfect. In the months following the book’s release in 2019, I visited over 20 local yoga communities. My travels concluded in February 2020, just weeks before the pandemic.
I wrote Evolving Your Yoga to help fellow practitioners get more out of their yoga practice. Drawing from insights cultivated over three decades of study and personal practice, I sought to distill those learnings into a guide that would help people expand and integrate the benefits of yoga in their lives.
It’s a different world now.
Fast forward four years, and the landscape of our lives - and the context for our yoga - have changed in...
In her book Real Self-care, Dr. Pooja Lakshmin - a psychiatrist specializing in women’s health - explores why the typical self-care practices offered to women today aren’t working. She argues that real self-care requires introspection to find clarity about one’s values and what truly adds meaning to one’s life.
For years, I’ve been teaching, talking, and writing about how to make yoga an authentic self-care practice - one that’s a far cry from how it’s often positioned in the mainstream fitness world. In a recent article I read about her book, Lakshmin made a point that makes the difference crystal clear.
We are like migrating birds,
The sadness of our departure
Is mitigated by
The joy of our reunion
- Author Unknown
I remember the first time my yoga practice felt like a homecoming. It was 1995 and I was teaching English at a university in Nanjing, China. Living abroad was an unforgettable experience, and, like any great adventure, it also had its challenges.
It was during one of those tougher times when it first dawned on me that yoga would always be there to welcome me just as I was. I recall one day, when I was feeling especially lonely and frustrated, rolling out my mat felt like preparing to enter a warm and familiar home where I could take refuge and find...
Oh, not to be separated, shut off from the starry dimension
By so thin a wall.
What is within us
If not intensified sky
Traversed with birds
With the winds of homecoming?
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Uncollected poems, translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows
It always amazes me how just thinking about yoga as a practice of homecoming softens some of the hard edges that I didn’t even realize were holding me separate and small.
Isn’t it true that life, in all its fullness and complexity, tends to narrow and constrict how we experience ourselves and closes us off from an expansive sense of being?
How wonderful, then, to consider how yoga brings us back to...
Recently, I was thrilled to read a New York Times article confirming that journaling is “one of the more effective acts of self-care,” explaining that articulating and processing difficult experiences and emotions through writing is healing:
Does shift only happen at the edges?
Yes, but not always in the way we might think.
Your edges are the frontiers of your practice, the limits where something is about to happen. Joel Kramer coined the term in a 1977 article, saying “The body has edges that mark its limits in stretch, strength, endurance, and balance. ...This edge has a feeling of intensity, and is right before pain, but it is not pain itself.”
The way we approach our edges, therefore, is essential for experiencing shifts in our practice.
I believe that there times when it's appropriate not to work at your edges and that there are other edges that are equally important to...