If you, like me, are MORE than ready to get back on your mat for real, here are my do's and don'ts for starting again, something I've gotten really good at over the years:
1. Welcome yourself even MORE unconditionally than usual.
2. Begin with something you love that feels GREAT in your body and go from there (for me this usually means lying on my back, knees up and hugged in).
3. Be generous with yourself. Keep it slow and sweet for as long as you want.
4. Allow more space than usual for rest, breath, and simply feeling.
5. Practicing in pajamas is totally okay.
6. No mirrors allowed.
7. Be more mindful than usual of how you feel afterward.
8. No trying to get better at anything.
9. No expectations. Whatever you do is ENOUGH.
10. Consciously thank yourself for showing up no matter what your practice looked like.
As we wind down toward the darkest day of the year, here's a timely reminder about the ever-increasing preciousness of slowing down to wake up, and finding the regenerative power in our practices:
From Chapter 9 of my forthcoming book, "Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice":
"...the importance of resetting ourselves, of taking time to slow down, to come back to our physicality, to release stress on a regular basis, has become even more crucial to maintain a sense of balance and harmony. It is vitally necessary for our well-being. Not only must we prioritize time dedicated to removing ourselves from the world of our screens, we need reliable and effective ways for restoring a sense of physical and energetic integration to our beings.
Yoga practice is, of course, an optimal way to renew ourselves. Yoga class remains (hopefully) one of the last places where we disconnect from our devices for an hour or so. But even more powerfully, in practice...
In our ever-quickening world of instant, continuous, and unending opportunities for distraction, the ability to focus our minds remains vitally important for our well-being.
The ability to draw our attention temporarily away from the busyness of our lives and direct our mental energies into our own selves is a key instigator for the transformative power of yoga.
Here's an excerpt from Chapter 8 of "Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice:"
"One of the great benefits of retreats, and the reason why they are such an important part of the yogic tradition, is that in a retreat setting there are limited opportunities for distraction.
In the many spiritual retreats I’ve participated in over the years, I’ve gotten to know the way my mind responds to extended, focused periods of practice. It starts out during the first day or two with its usual preoccupations and wanderings.
Here, it’s easy to become aware of the usual speed and...
In writing "Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice," I interviewed over 25 longtime teachers to hear their experiences and insights into how yoga practice evolves over time.
Many of them generously shared personal stories of how yoga helped them to find emotional healing and develop a more caring and loving relationship with themselves.
Chapter Seven is perhaps the one that feels most personal for me as well. I believe it’s one that will resonate with many of us who’ve found greater self-love and self-acceptance through yoga. Here's an excerpt:
"My hatha yoga practice played an essential role in shifting the nature of my inner dialogue from critical to compassionate. Asana became a practice of self-honoring and self-acceptance.
I used it to cultivate a loving relationship with myself. I consciously related to my body as an instrument for the inner work of yoga and ultimately as the vehicle for service to the...
I remember the moment I knew with firm conviction that I would dedicate myself to asana practice in a major way. It was a summer afternoon in Manhattan. I had just finished taking a yoga class and I was walking to catch the crosstown bus.
I looked like just another person walking down Third Avenue, but inwardly I felt completely lit up, alive with an energy that was sweetly pulsing throughout my entire body.
It was as if I were a string of lights around a Christmas tree that had just been plugged in. I was compelled to just be with the experience. I found the nearest place to sit, which happened to be a concrete landing outside of an office building. I paused for a while, enjoying this extraordinary state of being.
More than twenty years later, that image of being lit up like Christmas lights, and the feeling that gave rise to it, has stayed with me. It has become more familiar over the years too.
I recognize it not only as a pleasurable after-effect...
Strength and Flexibility
Action and Reflection
Doing and Being
Pose and Repose
Effort and Surrender
And the list goes on and on...
I couldn't wait to explore the fascinating nature of the pairs of opposites as described in yoga philosophy and how to balance them in practice and in life:
From Chapter 5 of "Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for an Enlightened Practice":
"There’s a fundamental paradox in our journey as yogis. It's the fact that we are embodied spirits. We have a finite life, a body, an individual identity with its distinct personality and preferences. At the same time, yoga tells us we also have a mystical, expansive, sublime, universal, and ultimately infinite nature. Both are true.
Yoga is a journey where we use the mundane to know the spiritual. In practice, we employ the mind and body to nurture an experience that is beyond both mind and body. For this simple reason, practice at its essence is a dance between opposites.
Over on another Facebook page, one member recently reported her findings from a survey of 100 yoga teachers. It came as no shock to me to hear that one of her discoveries was that the most satisfied yoga teachers are the ones who don’t need to earn an income from teaching, those who teach simply because they love sharing yoga.
In fact, this is something I hear often. More than that, it’s something I’ve LIVED.
I’ve made my living as a yoga teacher for 20 years. I now mentor a community of teachers, many of whom also teach full-time. It’s our livelihood, the way we support, or contribute to supporting, our family. For me, and others like me, teaching yoga isn’t a hobby or side hustle. The income we make from teaching isn’t extra money that’s “nice” to have.
And, I’ve found myself disheartened by how little this job can pay, and halfway out the door, more than a few times.
Reasoning that if I got a...
In theory, at least, it’s easy to understand that yoga is clearly a path of shift and change. A good practice doesn’t leave us quite the way it found us. It’s physically, mentally, and spiritually edifying.
However, it may be hard to identify and articulate the ways in which we have experienced the transformative power of the practice.
For students and teachers wishing to expand and deepen their practice, the understanding of how and why yoga works as a path of positive change is crucial.
This is why I felt it was important to delve into the transformative aspect of yoga, and specifically to examine how shift happens in yoga, why it happens, and of course, to what end.
Here's an excerpt from Chapter 3 of "Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice":
"Some teachers will tell you that yoga is not a path toward a goal, but that it is simply about being present to what is.
I partially agree with this. Certainly,...
This was the chapter that couldn't wait to be written. It's such an important message, I believe, for anyone wishing to deepen their yoga and certainly anyone who teaches it.
This single shift of mindset, from approaching yoga as a client, a consumer, or even simply a practitioner, to being a student of the practice. Well, it changes everything, don't you think?
From Chapter 2, "Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice":
"Among the many skills we develop in yoga, the skill of being a student is perhaps the most important. It’s the meta-skill that encompasses 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 being a student of ourselves, our life, and our consciousness.
Studentship in yoga is a vast and awesome undertaking that runs the gamut of inquiring into the most mundane aspects of our physical body to investigating the metaphysical,...
Beginning today and for the next few weeks I'll be sharing snippets of what you'll find in each the chapters of my forthcoming book, "Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice."
Many of us who've been practicing yoga for a while know without a doubt that yoga helps us in our lives. We feel better in our bodies, clearer in our minds, more in touch with our emotions; we’re better equipped to handle stress, and we function more capably in all areas of our lives as a result of our practice.
Yet we may not know exactly how yoga does this, or why yoga works not just physically and mentally, but on all levels of our being.
In looking at both my own experience of evolution on the path of yoga and what I’ve observed in working with thousands of students over the years, I wondered:
What are the underlying beliefs that have allowed asana to become part of our path of inner discovery and positive shift?
What recurring themes form the...
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.