Autumn is nature’s exhale. Can you feel it? The energy of dissolving and releasing is all around us. If you’re feeling called to let go of certain things, whether by choice or by circumstance, it might help to know that not only aren’t you alone, but you’re right on time and in tune.
I’ve always found it apt that the Hindu festival of Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to honoring the Goddess - coincides with Autumn in the Western hemisphere. The trees themselves reflect the colours of the Goddess in their red, orange, and yellow leaves, don’t they?
After all, like the Fall, so much about honoring the Goddess is also about letting go, about destruction.
There’s the Goddess Kali wearing a necklace made of the skulls of her conquests, drunk on their blood. And Durga riding her tiger into battle, weapons in hand, ready to fight the demon and restore dharma.
As yogis, we’re given the tools and understandings that...
We are like migrating birds,
The sadness of our departure
Is mitigated by
The joy of our reunion
- Author Unknown
Consider how your yoga practice offers you a conduit back to yourself. Through breath, attention, kinesthetic and energetic awareness, the practice brings us home to ourselves again and again.
As we forge the pathway of return, we might recognize how far we’ve allowed ourselves to depart. Our relationship with ourselves might feel fraught or long forgotten. Our inner being might seem distant and far away since we last took the time to connect within.
In those moments, it can be helpful to remind yourself to be present for the reunion that is taking place once again, right here and now. Acknowledge yourself for making the time and space for practice. And, be grateful for the practice itself as the technology that offers us passageway toward reunification with our most essential selves.
Presence, remembrance, and gratitude have the...
Do you remember when you first got lit up about yoga as something more than a physical pursuit? Do you recall what it felt like when the tender shoots of self-awareness first sprouted within you?
It’s mysterious, isn’t it? Somehow the switch gets flicked on and we get interested in our our inner life.
The very first “spiritual” book I ever read was Peace is Every Step by the Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. I’m honouring him today because by all reports, he will soon be leaving his body. At 94, his was the definition of a life well lived in my book.
When I picked up that book almost 30 years ago, I wouldn't have called myself a seeker though I was definitely looking for something. His sweet and simple lessons about mindfulness opened up a world of possibility for me, one where happiness and contentment could be cultivated from within.
After a recent weekend with a group of bright and thoughtful teachers-in-training, I’m once again blown away by something I've known for 25 years and yet, astonishingly, feels revelatory and thrilling each time I remember it. I mean REALLY remember it, as in sit with it, and consider its implications:
Asana as sadhana, the path of the body as an instrument of yoga. Postural practice as a means to explore our inner being and become situated in our souls.
Asana as not only a physical endeavor, but as a practice that integrates all the eight limbs and addresses the whole of us: yama, niyama, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. They can all be right there in our poses:
We practice contentment, non-harming, clarity, non-attachment, indeed any and all the benevolent virtues we wish to bring to bear in facing these times of challenge.
We expand Prana,
We take the senses into the body,
We hold our attention inside, using energy,...
Autumn is just about to show us how beautiful it can be to let go.
If I see this meme one more time, I think I’ll scream.
Don't get me wrong, I love being inspired by the beauty of nature.
And, yes, the leaves are dying with incredible majesty and grace.
Of course, letting go CAN be beautiful.
It can also be really hard and not very pretty at all.
Can you relate? After all, the last six months have been a master class for all of us on letting go: individually, collectively, personally, professionally, every which way in fact.
Yoga has a lot to say about the importance of letting go and for good reason. There’s perhaps no more important skill we develop through our practice than getting good at riding the waves of change through healthy detachment, a courageous heart, and clear understanding of the temporary nature of pretty much EVERYTHING.
It’s a common response to being introduced to a new, exciting, scary or particularly bendy pose.
It is often said with nostalgia for what was once possible and even a certain resignation that limitations of age, stiffness or injury will keep us from ever doing it again.
It’s true that what we were once able to do might no longer, or at least not right now, be appropriate or useful for us.
The body is always changing. Physical constraints, lifestyle and so much more can keep us from being able to do what we did when we were 9 years old, 25 or even last week.
The quicker you can get past the regret, the sooner you will be able to move on to the point, which is to recognize, respect, engage with and learn from the reality of your body at this moment.
At these moments, the opportunity of practice is to let go of the old story of fear, frustration, and defeat and transform it into one of empowerment and responsibility.
It’s Pitru Paksha, the fortnight of the ancestors. This is the two-week period in the Hindu calendar (September 2-16 this year) dedicated to honoring one’s lineage.
This traditionally includes the three generations that have come before you – your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents that have passed on. It can also include teachers, friends, mentors, and even pets who have departed.
I believe the support of our ancestors is with us all the time, even when we don’t experience it. It becomes more powerful when we consciously connect to their presence.
During this powerful time I invite you to take hold of the support of your lineage today.
What would your ancestors see if they looked down on you and your life right now?
What would they want to tell you? What would they want you to know?
What blessing would they offer you?
I’ve been fascinated by the concept of liminality since I first learned about it years ago as an undergrad in Anthropology. It refers to the period between one role or stage in life and the next.
Liminal comes from the Latin root limen, which means “threshold.” It is a transitional time, where we're on the cusp between two ways of being. We've left one behind and aren’t quite established in another. The time between graduating university and starting a new job, being engaged and getting married, or leaving one home and moving to a new city are some examples of liminal spaces.
Liminal spaces occur on the collective level too. If you were wondering if there was a term to describe the strange reality we find ourselves right now, the answer is yes. The global pandemic has moved us into a collective liminality. In many ways, the world as we knew feels like it is over and our new...
Recently, in response to a column about being an ambassador for yoga, one of our readers wrote:
I have felt some pressure from people (students or not), an expectation that I have to be a certain way. For instance, people assume that because I do yoga I am always calm and never get angry (neither apply to me.) Or, that because I am doing yoga I am some kind of super Bendy-Wendy circus person (which I am not either).
Over the years, yoga has become something more and more private to me. A practice that I use and can go back to again and again. Yoga is my companion. It helps me reflect and awaken whether others see it or not.
I relate to this. I remember once leading a weekend retreat, drinking my morning coffee with the other participants during our breakfast. A student approached me, and with a look of disdain asked me, accusingly, "YOU drink coffee?"
The way he said it, you would have thought it was vodka.
My first reaction was to play into his stereotype, to...
The quieter you become, the more you can hear.
- Ram Dass
Silence. It's not just the absence of words, though that's where it begins.
It's the quieting of the mind, the slowing down of the stream of thoughts.
When the ripples of the mind settle and become like the calm surface of a lake, as the classic analogy goes, it becomes still, clear and pristine.
From here, peace emerges.
If I'm honest with myself, this is the experience I long for the most, the most precious gift of yoga in my life. It often eludes me, but when I do experience it, I realize that silence, more than anything, is what I pray my practices will bring. The gift of quietude that reveals freedom, serenity, and clarity.
It's from a quiet mind that all great work gets accomplished.
It's from a quiet mind that we can meet life from the best possible stance.
It's from a quiet mind that we're able to give our best to the situations and circumstances at hand.
It's from a quiet mind that we can listen to...
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