Beyond Asana Blog

The Meta-Skill

Dec 08, 2015

“Yoga is Skill in Action”

The Bhagavad Gita

Skill: the ability to do something well; expertise, adeptness, adroitness, prowess, mastery, competence, capability, aptitude, artistry, virtuosity, talent

Among all the many skills we develop as yoga teachers, the skill of being a student is perhaps the most important. It’s the meta-skill that overarches all the others.

Unlike most other subjects, being a student of yoga is not only about the knowledge we gain or the skills we sharpen. It’s about walking a path that takes us to the higher realms of wisdom and freedom. It’s a continual unfolding of the truth inside.

For the teacher who approaches yoga as a path of lifelong learning, yoga continually deepens. It never gets dull.

Through steady practice we gain access to the living core at the heart of our tradition.

Our teaching stays authentic and carries the force of our own experience. Mastering the skill of being a student not only enriches our...

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3 Paths, 1 Class

Nov 23, 2015

The traditional 3 paths of yoga outlined in the Bhagavad Gita provide a useful framework for deconstructing the work of the hatha yoga teacher:

 Karma Yoga, The Path of Action

The disciplines we practice and teach. Asana, pranayama and the actions we perform, study, and refine within these practices.

The actions we use to teach: concrete skills including planning and preparation, the cues we give, the adjustments we make, the attention with which we observe our students.

Jnana Yoga, The Path of Knowledge

The understanding that informs these practices, including the teachings of our tradition.

The larger context we hold for the practice that evolves out of a combination of study, reflection and personal, inner experience.

The wisdom that gives rise to what we convey (whether overtly or subtly) when we teach. This includes the physical and energetic space we create through our welcoming, our interactions and our sheer presence.

Bhakti Yoga, The Path of...

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Everyday is Remembrance Day

Nov 13, 2015

Is there anything more powerful than remembering death to clarify what is most important in your life?

In the Buddhist tradition, remembering your death is a daily practice. Not in a morbid way, but as a reminder of preciousness of this fleeting, transient existence of ours. The perspective it brings allows for a healthy detachment from the unfolding dramas of daily life.

 Our yoga practice should do us the same service. Hopefully, our practice environment (both inner and outer) gives us the space to remember again and again what we hold most dear and essential.

Remembering that each day is an opportunity to take hold of, to live fully and to learn from, practice supports us to become established, steadily and gradually, in our inherent goodness and share it with our world. These are the things to be remembered daily. 

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A Meet-And-Greet For Your Feet

Nov 10, 2015

Feet are amazing pieces of architecture. Each foot has:

  • 26 bones (One-quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet)
  • 33 joints
  • more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments
Here are some paradigms to explore working the feet in Tadasana. See this post for tips on working with these diagrams.



Top left: Balance the weight evenly on these 4 points while lifting your arches. To strengthen your arches, lift your toes and inner ankles keeping the 4 corners of the feet evenly weighted.

Top Right: From the centre of the foot, extend forward through the base of the big toe, and back through the inner heel, forward through the base of the little toe and back through the outer heel.

Bottom left: From the base of the little toe draw the inner heel back. From the inner heel extend forward to the big toe mound. From the big toe mound draw the outer heel back and from the outer heel extend to the mound of little toe

Bottom right:...

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Embodying Spirit

Nov 02, 2015

The first “spiritual” book I ever read was Peace is Every Step by the Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. This small book about mindfulness opened up a world of possibility for me, one where happiness and contentment could be cultivated from within.

 Recalling it now, more than 20 years later, I am reminded of the precious beginnings of my search, and the longing sparked an inquiry myself and what this life was all about anyway.

Remembering back to the early teachings that touched us and turned our attention toward living a more consicous life are landmarks to be honoured. They help us to acknowledge the yearning that ignited our search and that is still, when we can remember it, likely at the heart of our practice.

Whether or not you can join me for my upcoming workshop on 5 core teachings of yoga, I hope you'll take some time this week to reignite your love for yoga by revisiting the sacred knowledge of our tradition that has...

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How About?

Oct 25, 2015

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I'll meet you there.

 Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi - 13th century mystic


At the meditation ashram where I sometimes have the privilege of teaching hatha yoga classes, the teachers debrief after each and every class.   

Reflecting on your teaching with others is a valuable way to improve your skills as a teacher, acknowledge your strengths and identify areas for growth. The last of course is the most delicate and least comfortable for most of us.

Teaching yoga is a highly personal endeavour. Dedicated teachers put themselves out there every time they take their seat at the front of the room. We teach out of a love for the practice and they -both teaching and practice - are dear to us. This high degree of personal investment makes us vulnerable. It may cause us to fear entering into a dialogue and miss the golden opportunity to receive constructive feedback.

It requires courage to disengage from the...

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Stoking The Fire

Oct 21, 2015

Yes, my Canadian sisters and brothers and friends throughout the Northern Hemisphere, it’s that time again. I wish I could have waited at least until November to give you some ways to generate heat in your practice. As I sit here typing with chilled fingers and a cup of hot water on my desk, though, I realize it's time.

Strengthening agni, the fire element, in your practice means not just building internal heat, but using your yoga to become more powerful, purposeful and self-motivated. These are some of the qualities of the Manipura chakra, located at the level of the solar plexus, which is associated with the element of fire. This is why many of the poses I suggest below bring energy to that region.

Best asanas to build heat:

·       Standing Poses: Especially Virabhadrasana 1, 2 and 3, Utkatasana, Garudasana

·       Twists: Standing and Seated, especially “closed”...

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5 Questions For Shantala, Part 2

Oct 16, 2015

In the second installment of my interview with Shantala, Benjy and Heather share their perspective on how kirtan has developed in the context of Western yoga culture and some of the important questions and challenges facing the evolution of the Western Bhakti movement. We're looking forward to welcoming them back to Shri Yoga this Monday, October 19.

BARRIE: Just as asana practice has evolved to meet the needs of Western students, how has kirtan developed? What are some of the up sides and down sides of this evolution from your perspective?

BENJY & HEATHER: Over the last fifty years or so, there has been a wave of yoga practices – centering especially around asana in North America, Europe, and increasingly around the world – that has now become strongly integrated into western culture. Following the wave of the rapidly increasing popularity of asana, kirtan (as well as some other spiritual practices) has also become an important part of many...

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5 Questions For Shantala, Part 1

Oct 15, 2015

Benjy and Heather Wertheimer, aka Shantala have been leading kirtan for the past 15 years. They are known for sharing their love of sacred chanting with beauty, passion and reverence. Shantala has performed and recorded internationally with such sacred music luminaries as Krishna Das, Deva Premal & Miten, and Jai Uttal. In summer 2008, they were named as one of the top “Wallahs to Watch” by Yoga + Joyful Living.

In the first part of this thoughtful interview, Benjy and Heather discuss the power of kirtan, explain how chanting supports asana practice and offer tips for yoga teachers to incorporate music into their classes. We're looking forward to welcoming them back to Shri Yoga this Monday, October 19.

1.     Tell us a bit about your background and how you got involved in leading kirtan and devotional chanting.

The path that brought each of us into this role is somewhat different, but it’s also...

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Gratitude Day

Oct 12, 2015

How about including your body?

It’s your vehicle, your instrument, the house of your spirit, the sacred vessel of consciousness and the living, breathing miracle of your existence on this earth.

Amidst the aches and pains you might be experiencing, think of the thousands of things that go right to make it possible for you to get out of bed in the morning.

For a moment, set aside your judgments and complaints about all the ways it doesn’t  live up to your expectations for it, and thank your body for its immense and unceasing efforts in service to all you do.

Then, if you wish to go a step further, consider who is doing the thanking.

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