Beyond Asana Blog
My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.
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...
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...
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....
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...
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 Sutras, Patanjali was referring to the meditation posture (asana here means...
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,...
Here’s last week's part 1 on the topic of yoga-related injuries that addresses common causes of yoga-related injuries and tips to avoid them.
Thanks to research and investigation, not to mention the woefully infamous 2012 New York Times headline, Can Yoga Wreck Your Body?, the conversation around yoga-related injuries has greatly expanded over the past several years. Notably, through Matthew Remski’s WAWADIA project, many long time practitioners are now sharing stories that document and explore the multi-layered and often nuanced psychosocial and cultural dynamics at play in both acute and chronic yoga-related injuries.
If you’ll indulge me for a couple of paragraphs, I’d like to share a brief history of yoga and my knees. As a flexible body type I was always able to achieve deep hip opening poses in yoga. Then, after about 10 years of practice, my knees started to feel the impact. The first time was pretty dramatic. I was in an advanced yoga retreat with my teacher and about 30 senior students. We were practicing Mulabandhasana. As you can see in this photo, it’s a pose that takes the knee into full flexion combined with extreme external rotation of the leg, i.e. bent and turned out. As I moved into the pose I felt the dreaded “pop” in my outer right knee. It...
If you stick with yoga long enough, and perhaps not even very long, it’s certain you’ll be dealing with the question of what to practice when you get injured or sick. Do you forge ahead and get to class even when your sciatica is flaring up? Do you stop practicing completely when your physio tells you you have a torn meniscus? How do you adapt your practice after you injure your shoulder playing tennis? How do you know what’s right?
It takes sensitivity and awareness to respond to changes in your physical condition and adapt practice appropriately. Therefore, working with an injury or illness can actually be a turning point in your yoga if you approach it as an...
Here are some ways I’ve found to make consistent and satisfying home practice really happen:
- Schedule it. Put it in your agenda(s) and prioritize it as an important appointment with yourself.
- Have a reliable way to remind yourself (post-it notes, phone alerts and texts to yourself are all good!).
- Think about what you’re going to practice the night before.
- Seek out input from a teacher you trust for sequences and guidance on what will serve you best.
- Commit to a minimum amount of practice times weekly that you will not go below and hold yourself to it.
- Have props visible.
- Have a practice buddy.
- Practice as early in the day as you can. ...