Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.
-Clarissa Pinkola Estés
I fully believe that the only way to effect meaningful change in the world is to begin with our selves.
Yet, I still sometimes struggle with the enormity of the world's suffering and how that contrasts with the privilege I enjoy of being able to spend the amount of time that I do practicing and thinking about yoga, and "working on myself."
I know better than to consider this selfish, yet sometimes it feels tinged with self-indulgence, a sense of luxury and entitlement.
Shouldn't I be doing something more timely, more urgent, than contemplating the nature of the Self?
But then I remember that all of us are entrusted with a small corner of the world to serve in our own unique way.
For some people it takes the form of political activism, or fostering children or animals, or fundraising...
At ease, in the present moment, spacious, clear, grounded, centered, calm, settled.
These are some of the words that describe my experience of being in alignment in my asana practice yesterday – a lower-body focused practice of seated hip openers and twists.
Articulating beneficial experiences in yoga strengthens them.
Therefore, I invite you to explore your own process of moving into alignment:
- How do you go from feeling out of sync to synched up? From scattered to sorted?
- How would you describe the movement toward unity and wholeness that comes from bringing the pieces and parts of you into greater harmony?
- What words convey the experience of feeling aligned in your body and being?
To get you started, perhaps it’s helpful to share a bit about my experience. For me, alignment is a process that moves in pulsation.
On the one hand, there’s a deconstructive aspect: I sense where there’s...
I stood on a small bridge near my house the other day, focusing on the movement of a freshly defrosted stream flowing beneath me.
I’ve observed and listened to this particular stream before, but I experienced it differently this time.
Instead of my usual feeling of moving head-on into the flow of the water, I felt the energy of the stream supporting me from behind.
I imagined myself moving forward like that stream - with grace, tenderness, and the support of the universe at my back.
The feeling of letting go and being gently propelled into the flow was incredibly comforting.
It was a powerful lesson in the value of temporarily releasing everything: our fears, worries, anxieties, and also our ideas, plans, and goals.
In that release, trust emerges.
Trust that we’re supported.
Trust that we’re part of a bigger flow of life.
Trust that when we soften enough and manage to move into harmony with that flow, our own...
Tonight is the Hindu celebration of Mahashivaratri. It is the night dedicated to Lord Shiva, who represents the divine, auspicious, and eternal essence that exists in all things. One of the traditional ways to honor this occasion is to chant Lord Shiva’s name throughout the night.
I first celebrated Mahashivaratri during my first monthlong visit to India in 1995. I still remember standing on the roof of a temple pavilion in the darkness of the early morning hours, listening to the sounds of Om Namah Shivaya being chanted in a courtyard below.
As the syllables of the mantra rose up into the night sky to be received by the heavens, I too was transported into a mystical, majestic, and pristine realm of purity and peace.
It’s been 20 years since I last celebrated Mahashivaratri in India. But I still vividly remember those exquisite nights of chanting. When I become quiet, I can sometimes even touch that place of transcendent awareness.
Each year, I look forward...
A number of participants in our recent Triumphant Heart course on the Bhagavad Gita have confessed that they’ve fallen behind in our coursework (which isn’t a big deal, since students have full access to the course for one year.)
It's worth taking a closer look at the dreaded “falling behind.”
Here we are at the beginning of March (already!) It's just about that time when we might feel like we're lagging on projects we've started, plans we've made, or intentions we've set for ourselves.
I, myself, am already behind on an online program I’ve recently joined and on a number of other goals I have for this year.
I know the sheepish kind of energy that can come with confessing one has fallen behind.
I invite you to shift this disempowering dynamic, right here, right now.
For one thing, falling behind not only might happen, it's likely to happen.
Pivoting to meet the unexpected demands of the moment is...
Live every day like it's your last, and one day you'll be right.
This was one of my father's favorite sayings. He always chuckled after he said it. Incidentally, it's memorialized on a customized mouse pad we inherited when he passed away (after a good and full life) in 2018. It's a daily reminder that he ended up, of course, being right.
Sometimes I think this is the understanding that gives you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of re-zooming your perspective, remembering what's really important, and living each day to its fullest.
No wonder the Buddhists make it a practice to contemplate their own death every day.
Acknowledging the fleeting nature of our human existence: What else can so quickly and effectively help us discern what's worth holding onto and motivate us to let go of what isn't?
Yoga practice creates the space – both in your day and in your mind – to get back to what really matters....
This winter, I’ve finally mastered the art of getting our wood-burning stove roaring and, not only that, keeping it hot all day. It’s amazing how, even when the fire appears to be nothing but ashes, all it takes is a little poking around and suddenly the ashes come back to their red-hotness, ready to ignite another log.
Of course, the heat was always there, it just needed a little nudge.
This strikes me as a useful metaphor for rekindling the spark of enthusiasm for yoga. The art of making your practices new - again and again and again – is something all long-time yogis get really good at doing.
After a while, you realize that enthusiasm is something you need to bring to your practice, rather than something you’ll always receive from it.
Self-reflection is how I stoke the embers of my love for yoga. Noticing how my practices work for me reminds me of their value. That’s what keeps me wanting to come back.
I was blown away when I read how Sophie Gregoire Trudeau began the foreword to my book, Evolving Your Yoga, by asking, “Do you love yourself?" (download the full text of her foreword here).
Little did she know that this exact question had been at the heart of my yoga journey from the start.
Although we’d been friends since she graduated (with high honors) from a teacher training I led in 2013, I’d never fully shared with her my own struggles with unworthiness, insecurity, and lack of self-confidence.
Like many women I know, I grew up feeling critical of my body shape and size. Strong and broad-shouldered, “big-boned” as adults liked to say, I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable in my body.
I don’t think Sophie knew that this was what led me to embrace yoga not only as a physical discipline, but as a path toward learning to step into my fundamental goodness and worthiness, and to begin truly caring for...
Oh, our dear minds.
The mind is sometimes likened to a butterfly that flits around from flower to flower, never quite landing on a place to rest.
Until we give it one, that is.
Consider how your practice offers your mind a place to settle for a while.
Whether it’s the breath or the body,
A sensation, movement, or action,
An uplifting thought, a sacred sound, or presence itself.
Yoga gives the mind a chance to slow down and take a break from what is otherwise an incessant stream of usual activity.
What we do in yoga, of course, gives us tools to be kind to our minds throughout the rest of our day.
The breath is always there.
The body and its sensations are always there.
There’s whatever we’re doing in the present moment – typing on a keyboard, folding laundry, preparing a meal.
What are the places in your day where you’re able to give your mind a place to rest?
This year marks 29 years of yoga practice for me. My practice has taken on many different forms and phases over this time. I’ve experienced seasons of rich expansion and weathered plenty of dry seasons too.
There have been times when I’ve had the luxury of practicing 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. And other times when I considered paying attention to my breath as I did the dishes my “practice” for the day.
But one thing I can say is that I’ve continued. Despite all the times I’ve been distracted, disconnected, unavailable, or simply uninterested, I’m still here.
This is why I know that yoga will always be there for me in some form. The past 29 years have taught me that I can count on myself to continue to show up. That feels like something to celebrate.
You can look at your practice from another angle too: How yoga has accompanied you through your life.
Don't forget that all the while you were taking classes,...
Our free, online bonus content is designed to complement and enrich your experience of Evolving Your Yoga. Resources like video pose tutorials, downloadable journaling prompts, breathwork, guided visualizations, and more will support your exploration of each of the Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice.