Beyond Asana Blog

My weekly blog is a forum for contemplative inquiry into the intersection of yoga practice, traditional teachings, and real life.

What is Alignment in Yoga, Anyway? Feb 01, 2023

 

Alignment is a word we hear often in the yoga world. It’s a juicy topic. But it is also a topic that can easily be confusing and misunderstood. This is because alignment in yoga can refer to many related, yet different concepts. So, it has become one of these big, vague terms when it comes to how we instruct and practice asana.

Many of the discussions about alignment in yoga I’ve heard seem to focus only on alignment as it relates to functional movement and biomechanics. Don’t get me wrong, those are essential aspects of alignment. Yet, what’s missing for me in these conversations is any mention of what is beyond our physicality, as if...

Continue Reading...
What Upholds You Jan 25, 2023

 

I’ve always considered the foundation of a pose - the part of the body that’s in contact with the floor - to be significant in more ways than one.

As the first outward expression of a pose, it’s an opportunity to refresh the presence and meaning we wish to bring to our practice.

Yoga teachers often compare the foundation of a pose to that of a building: both are the underlying base upon which a structure is constructed.

Like in a building, the foundation of a pose needs to be balanced and steady to provide the optimal support to everything above it.

For example, the way you place your hands in Downward-facing Dog Pose will impact the arms, shoulders, neck, and upper...

Continue Reading...
A Better Beginnerā€™s Mind Jan 18, 2023

 

May I not be held back by what I think I know.

This was a little prayer I used to recite at the beginning of my practice. It was my way of stepping into a beginner’s mind.

Shoshin, or beginner’s mind, is a concept from the Zen Buddhist tradition that refers to an attitude of openness and a lack of preconceptions. In the yoga tradition, humility, eagerness, and patience are some of the many yogic virtues that are fostered when we approach a subject as if we were beginners.

Beginner’s mind is important in yoga because it engages our curiosity, clears the decks of our expectations, and brings us into the present to experience ourselves and our practice as new....

Continue Reading...
Same and Different Jan 11, 2023

 

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man
- Heraclitus, Greek philosopher 
 
I doubt Heraclitus ever had to deal with the problem of getting bored in yoga, but he certainly had some brilliant insight into how to keep a practice fresh and interesting.
 
On the one hand, the postures we practice might seem to be the same. The forms we regularly practice become familiar to us over time. This repetition and familiarity are helpful because it allows us to build a relationship with them. Like a good friend, we can rely on our practice to be there to support us.
 
On the other hand, no matter how many thousands of...

Continue Reading...
The Power in Simply Showing Up Jan 04, 2023

 

My intention for my practice this year is to show up. To carve out space, just one evening a week, for myself and my practice. To make space in the mornings, even if it's just a few minutes, to move my body and align with forces greater than myself.

I love this student’s intention because it reflects the importance of the unfancy, unglamorous effort of showing up regularly in one’s practice. 

Making daily, sometimes small, deposits into the bank account of your well-being adds up over time to keep you feeling good and, hopefully, able to do everything you need, want, and love to do in the rest of your life.

It's a great example of abhyasa, the foundational...

Continue Reading...
Happy Holidays! Dec 21, 2022

 

It’s that time of year when my holiday cookie baking - usually a weekend project - spills out into the weeknights. It’s a sure sign that the holidays are fast approaching. 

For some of us this means parties and reunions with loved ones. For others, it’s a solitary celebration, or a time for being with the grief, loss, or uncertainty we might be moving through.
 
Whatever it is for you this year, I think one of the most important ways yoga serves us - especially at this time - is by expanding our capacity to live it fully.

The practices and perspectives of yoga help us to be present with the full spectrum of our experience so we can show up for ourselves...

Continue Reading...
Comfort and Joy Dec 14, 2022

 

Two words that evoke the best of the holiday spirit. How can yoga bring a new dimension to the ways we might usually think about them? Let’s take a look:

The English word “comfort” can be translated into a number of different Sanskrit words. But one that you might be familiar with is sukha, which means ease, comfort, or happiness. In the Yoga Sutras it refers to one of the qualities of a well-established meditation posture and, by extension your experience of physical ease and comfort in any posture at all.

You can also think about sukha in deeper sense of how your yoga practice can be a source comfort in your life. You can approach your practice as a time to...

Continue Reading...
Dual and Nondual Yoga Philosophy: What it Means for Your Practice Dec 07, 2022

 

In last week’s post on the differences between dualist and nondualist yoga philosophies, we saw that whether we adopt a dual or nondual perspective makes a huge difference in how we see our relationship to the world and the nature of reality. Therefore, it has significant implications for how we understand the aims of our yoga practice, it’s role in our lives, and the forms that our practice takes. 

As I mentioned last week, dualistic yoga philosophies view spirit and matter as essentially different and independent from one another. They see the goal of yoga as liberating the soul from its entanglement with the body/mind and the outer world. This gives rise to...

Continue Reading...
Dualism vs. Nondualism Nov 30, 2022

 

I would love your thoughts on the difference between dualistic and nondualistic yoga philosophies.  

I’m so glad you asked! This is an important question and one that has significant implications for your yoga practice. This week, I’ll explain the differences between dual and nondual worldviews and their distinct approaches to yoga. Next week, I’ll discuss what this means for your yoga practice.

Dualistic yoga philosophies consider spirit and matter to be fundamentally different and view spirit as superior to matter. The belief that reality is composed of two separate and independent parts is known as dualism, or dvaita in Sanskrit.

For most...

Continue Reading...
Gratitude Day Nov 23, 2022

 

How about including your body? The living, breathing miracle of your existence on this planet?

Amidst all the ways you might feel your body is less than perfect, consider the thousands of things that go right just to make it possible for you to get out of bed in the morning.

Take a moment and bow down to the ingenious mechanism of your breath, the wonder of having senses to perceive the world, and the masterful symphony of reflexes, systems, and processes constantly at work supporting all you do and all you are.

And, perhaps most of all, honor the awareness that’s there to do the thanking.

 

 

Continue Reading...