Beyond Asana Blog

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

Approaching The Steady Center Jun 06, 2017

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...

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Whose Responsibility is Your Yoga Practice? And Why Your Studio May Not Actually Want You to Become a Student May 30, 2017

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...

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Excavating May 23, 2017
 

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...

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Becoming More of Who You Truly Are: Thoughts on Transformation in Yoga May 16, 2017

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...

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Nurturing The Inner Relationship May 09, 2017

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...

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Yoga And Body Image: Thoughts From a Big-Boned Yogi May 02, 2017

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...

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Becoming Prana-Rich Apr 25, 2017

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....

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Finding The Balance of Right Effort Apr 18, 2017

Yoga teachers, you know the type: the over-eager student who can barely sit through your centering and can’t wait to get moving. This is the high-achieving student whose intensity is apparent from the sparks flying from their fingers in the first Downward-Facing Dog. This person pushes it to the max in every pose. The idea of ever choosing a less intense variation of a pose? Out of the question! And then, there is the other end of the spectrum. This is the reluctant, overly-cautious student, who might just choose to lie in Savasana for 90 minutes given the choice. I’m exaggerating, of course, but most of us tend to lean toward one of these two extremes in our approach to...

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Sthira-Sukha: The Fundamental Paradox of Practice Apr 10, 2017

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing how to work with the fundamental paradox at the heart of yoga practice  on the physical, energetic, mental and emotional levels.

Sthira Sukham Asanam

Posture should be steady and comfortable.

Yoga Sutra 2.46, Trans. Edwin Bryant, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

This central teaching, that posture should reflect a balance between steadiness and ease, stability and comfort, provides a context for working with the fundamental paradox of yoga in asana practice.  

While in the original context of the Yoga SutrasPatanjali was referring to the meditation posture (asana here means...

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The Unlayered Self Mar 27, 2017

It’s the end of March here in Montreal. As all Quebecers know, the arrival of Spring here can scarcely be distinguished from the continuation of winter. Snow is still piled up on the sidewalk outside the studio as I sit down to teach my Friday class. The students, like me, are all bundled up. Though the coats, hats, scarves and gloves came off in the reception area, the layers remain: Leggings covered by legwarmers, socks still on, tank tops covered by long-sleeved shirts and those by cardigans. We feel safe and cozy beneath the layers that protect us from the elements. As we start to move and build heat, the layers slowly come off. For me, there is joy in simply moving the body,...

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