Beyond Asana Blog
My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.
The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle.
Practice reveals this source place, this inner light. It glows with quiet joy, strength and, most essentially, love. We can allow it to light our way through times of darkness, struggle and challenge.
Like candles on the menorah, may the promise of the season...
“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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...