Beyond Asana Blog
My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.
If we’re connected on social media, you might have seen this quote that I posted in honor of Earth Day. There’s a backstory to it that I wanted to share with you because it holds an important lesson:
I first read it in 1992 at the World Yoga Center, the studio where I was introduced to yoga and took my first teacher training. It was hanging on wall in the changing room. I can still remember the feeling of exhilaration, as if my whole being said “Yes!" Although I knew nothing about yoga philosophy, the words felt true on a deep, instinctual level. Reading them sparked something inside me.
Little could my 23 year-old self have imagined that in...
What more can we accomplish now than the survival of the soul. Harm and decay are not more present than before, perhaps, only more apparent, more visible and measurable….So much in collapse, so much seeking new ways out. Room for what new can happen.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter excerpt from 1914
What strikes me about Rilke’s prophetic words are the phrases the survival of the soul and room for what new can happen, and their resonance with the transformative power of yoga.
The soul is often referred to in yoga as the Self, the atman, or the Heart. It’s envisioned as eternal, unchanging, and indestructible essence within...
If you're navigating through life's changes and grappling with finding a clear path forward these days, know that you're in good company. So many people I know are feeling adrift right now as they are confronted by the uncertainty that we all face on an individual, collective, and planetary scale.
I read an article in The Atlantic magazine a few days ago called Sick all the Time. This pretty much captures what our household has felt like over the past 6 months, with someone battling one bug or another nearly constantly. And while, thankfully, all our illnesses have turned out to be mild and transient, it’s still no fun.
I recently wrote about the cycle of creation according to Nondual Tantric philosophy, which includes the acts of creation, maintenance, and dissolution.
These are considered to be three of the five functions of consciousness, known as Shiva in this tradition. Just as Shiva is said to perform these functions on the universal level,...
I’ve heard from students many times over the years that they appreciate that I’m a ‘real’ person with a ‘real’ body. While I’m never quite sure who I’m being compared to when they say this, I appreciate the sentiment, because I do endeavor to be someone who shares yoga from my lived experience.
Everything dies, but that’s kind of good. It makes for a very rich world. All the richness, all that fecundity, all that beautiful miracle of life, it happens because we live in cycles, not perpetuity.
- adrienne maree brown, writer, activist, and author
In our course on Nondual Tantra, one of the concepts we're exploring is the creative cycle. This tradition envisions an absolute consciousness - unbounded in its freedom and power - as the source from which everything comes into being, hangs around for a while, and then subsides. It describes this source power as giving rise to the dynamics of both our inner and outer worlds in a perpetual cycle of creation, maintenance, and...
I sometimes joke with students that a side benefit of practicing with me is that by listening to all the verbal cues I give, they don’t have time to think about their problems. I’m only half kidding.
As a student of alignment-based asana, I was taught by teachers who used lots of words, words that guided me deeper in my practice, words that captured my experience and turned it into learning and growth, and words that gathered the energy of my monkey-mind and focused it inward to grasp ever more subtle aspects of my being.
The role of language - and by extension the intellect - in an embodied practice like asana is fascinating.
Using our intellect in asana is how...
Humankind stands with its feet planted squarely on the earth, as in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), and its head in the sky.
- BKS Iyengar
What does it mean to have your feet planted on the earth and your head in the sky?
For me, it means being practical and responsive to the needs of my daily reality while also staying attuned to the bigger picture.
Consider yoga as a method that unites the mundane and the mystical.
Our practices take us deeper into our embodiment, while also inviting us into an transcendent vision of who we are.
Feet on the ground, head in the sky: The journey of the yogi encapsulated in Tadasana.
How does your yoga empower you to remember...
In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.
― Pico Iyer
I took my first series of yoga classes while working as an executive secretary in a midtown Manhattan office. This was the early ’90s, when we still had old-fashioned tape counters that would measure how much of a cassette tape you’ve played and whose numbers could be set back to a string of zeros by pressing a button.
By the end of the class, I felt as though my tape counter was set back to 0000. My reset...
A few weeks ago, as I sat on my couch reading about the immense scale of the devastation in Turkey and Syria, at one point it almost became too much. My chest constricted and my jaw tightened. I sensed myself viscerally wanting to pull my attention away from looking at the photos and reading the accounts of the unfathomable loss and horrific tragedies unfolding there. It felt as if a dark, heavy cloud of sadness was sitting in my chest.
I didn’t want to turn away, though. I wanted to stay with the news and bear witness to the suffering unfolding for my fellow humans.
I turned to my breath. I imagined that with each inhalation I was becoming fully conscious of the pain and...